Summary and Analysis

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:

  1. Self-improvement (e.g., changes in educational and employment circumstances)
  2. Family engagement (e.g., family reunification, financial support of family)
  3. Civic participation (e.g., volunteering, voting, helping others)
  4. 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.

Excerpted from William White

The Recovery Research Institute’s National Recovery Study (Kelly et al., 2017) explored the experiences of a representative sample of 2,002 U.S. adults who self-reported resolution of an alcohol or other drug problem. A recent secondary analysis of this survey data (Eddie et al., 2020) examined recovery-related changes across four areas.
Major findings from this secondary survey analysis include the following:
* The resolution of an alcohol or other drug (AOD) problem in one’s lifetime is common among U.S. adults.
* The resolution of an alcohol or other drug (AOD) problem is often accompanied by changes beyond the cessation of alcohol and other drug use.
*Eighty percent of adults who have resolved an alcohol or other drug (AOD) problem report significant achievements in one or more of the domains of self-improvement, family engagement, civic participation, and economic participation, since resolving their AOD problem.