Recovery is a Path

Not a Destination

by Kathy Coogan

The words recovery and cure are used as synonyms in most areas of the medical profession. Joyous proclamations of, “Joe has recovered from his bout of pneumonia,” and “Jane’s cancer is cured,” are interchangeable descriptions of happy medical outcomes. Cancer is cured. Patients recover from pneumonia, measles and mumps. The deal is done. The particular disease has been eliminated. Recovery and Cure are conclusions to the illness.

Elsewhere, however, recovery and cure are not synonyms. Where the diseases of alcoholism and chemical dependency are treated, the word cure is never used. And great care is taken to use the word recovery properly.

Cure implies a fixed, static, unchanging, never-look-back phenomenon. Recovery is a continuum that underscores life-long responsibility and potential ongoing reward. Recovery is what happens to a person who successfully, continuously battles the diseases of addiction, one day at a time.

Most dictionary definitions of recovery imply the return to, or a restoring of, a recovery of conditions that once were. The return to the status quo. And for many who seek recovery from the disease of alcoholism or addiction the status quo is a very good place. It contains family support, employment and serenity.

But what if the status quo, the normal, is a sickening place? A place of despair, loneliness and a history of bad choices? There is a Webster’s definition of recovery that applies here too: “Obtaining usefulness from …waste material.” When a person has reached his bottom, he is wasted. Can he ever hope for recovery?

The answer is yes. Recovery is available to all. But it is not dispensed like pennies into a beggar’s hand. It is taught by folks who have achieved it on a daily basis. People in recovery talk about it as a path. The path is made up of steps; steps that have been taken, one through twelve, leading to recovery and then retraced for a lifetime.

Few people attempt to cure cancer or pneumonia alone. Most people seek the wisdom and expertise of a team of medical experts and follow the advice given to them. Addiction is also best battled with a team of experts, people who have lived through addiction themselves and who are willing to share their stories.

No one has to walk the path of recovery alone. Recovery is enhanced when it is shared. It is kept when it is given. Old hands join newcomers as guides through the steps, steps that they themselves have already taken. Their experience illuminates recovery, their strength empowers recovery and their hope encourages recovery.

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