William White and David Eddie, PhD., provide insight into the way those who recover from addiction reach many other markers of improvements besides just reducing or eliminating drug consumption. White and Eddie note four categories of improvement that are common to those who recover from addiction:
- Self-improvement (e.g., changes in educational and employment circumstances)
- Family engagement (e.g., family reunification, financial support of family)
- Civic participation (e.g., volunteering, voting, helping others)
- Economic participation (e.g., purchasing a car or home)
Further, they note that increased time in recovery is associated with such characteristics as enhancement of housing stability, improvements in family engagement and support, educational/occupational achievement, debt resolution and many other improvements.
Their observations align with the Working Definition of Recovery published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2012. SAMHSA’s definition embraces improvement of:
- Health: Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) or symptoms, for example, abstaining from the use of alcohol, illicit drugs, and non-prescribed medications
- Home: A stable and safe place to live
- Purpose: Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors
- Community: Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope
These contributions from the William White Papers and SAMHSA’s Working Definition of Recovery lend support to the idea that the best ways to help individuals recover from addiction involve helping individuals improve far more aspects of their lives than only ceasing the illicit purchasing and use of drugs.