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About Recovery

Recovery is a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential. Even people with severe and chronic substance use disorders can, with help, overcome their illness and regain health and social function. This is called remission. Being in recovery is when those positive changes and values become part of a voluntarily adopted lifestyle. While many people in recovery believe that abstinence from all substance use is a cardinal feature of a recovery lifestyle, others report that handling negative feelings without using substances and living a contributive life are more important parts of their recovery.

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Types of Recovery Programs

Some types of recovery programs include:

  • Recovery-oriented systems of care: These programs embrace a chronic care management model for severe substance use disorders, which includes longer-term, outpatient care; recovery housing; and recovery coaching and management checkups.
  • Recovery support services: These services refer to the collection of community services that can provide emotional and practical support for continued remission. Components include mutual aid groups, recovery coaching, recovery housing, recovery management (checkups and telephone case monitoring), recovery community centers, and recovery-based education (high schools and colleges).
  • Social and recreational recovery infrastructures and social media: These programs make it easier for people in recovery to enjoy activities and social interaction that do not involve alcohol or drugs (e.g., recovery-specific cafes and clubhouses, sports leagues, and creative arts programs).

NIDA offers two resources that can be used by counselors and others working with patients entering recovery following treatment:

Wallet Card

Drugs & the Brain Wallet Card: This tool is designed for patients leaving treatment and transitioning back to a less structured environment. To prepare these individuals to return to their home environment, counselors can customize this tool to help them identify triggers that could prompt a drug relapse. It also includes information about resources and helplines. These discreet cards can be kept in a wallet, pocket, purse, or cell phone case for easy access. The wallet cards can be downloaded here:

The Science of Drug Use - Discussion Points: This resource is intended to give counselors and others who work with patients within structured or criminal justice settings language they can use to explain the risks of drug use, as well as resources that can aid in recovery. The document can be used as a guide when offering the patient the wallet card when he or she is leaving the treatment facility.

National Recovery Month is a national observance that is held every September to educate Americans that substance use disorder treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental and/or substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. The National Recovery Month webpage provides a host of resources that can be used to help promote the observance.