A New Era of Recovery Support

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For more than 150 years, specialized support for addiction recovery in the United States has rested in two cultural institutions: peer-based recovery mutual aid organizations and professionally-directed addiction treatment.  Recovery historians are noting something quite unique unfolding in recent decades:  the emergence of new recovery support institutions that do not fit the categories of traditional mutual aid or addiction treatment. 

These institutions span the growing network of grassroots recovery community organizations, recovery community centers, recovery residences, recovery schools, recovery industries, recovery ministries, recovery cafés and organizations utilizing sports, theatre, film, art, literature, and music as media for recovery support.   Also in growing evidence are new recovery support roles that differ markedly from both the recovery mutual aid sponsor and the addictions counselor–roles variably christened as recovery coaches, recovery guides, peer specialists and recovery support specialists.  These new institutions and service roles reflect a shift in focus within the alcohol and other drug problems arena from an almost exclusive preoccupation on recovery initiation to the growing interest in the pathways and processes of long-term personal and family recovery within the community. 

Three recent reports call attention to this shift.  The first is a primer on recovery residences prepared by leading researchers in this area and a related policy statement on recovery residences approved by the Society of Community Research and Action – Community Psychology, Division 27 of the American Psychological Association.  The second is a Betty Ford Institute Consensus Statement on the Status and Future of Addiction Recovery Support Services in the United States.  The third is a historical essay by this author and Drs. John Kelly and Jeffrey Roth on these new recovery support institutions.  I think those of you interested in the emergence and evolution of these new recovery support resources will find these documents highly informative. 

Where mutual aid and addiction treatment have focused a great deal of their energies on the intrapersonal processes of addiction recovery, the new social institutions are seeking to also create the physical, psychological, sociocultural and spiritual space within local communities within which recovery can flourish and flourish across diverse pathways of recovery.  This effort is based on the belief that there is an inextricable link between the health of individuals and families and the health of the community.  Individual and family healing is best nested in communities that acknowledge and support such healing. 

Our past efforts have focused so much on the intrapersonal journey of recovery that we have given little thought to creating a world that nurtures recovery and intergenerational resiliency.  That world is now under construction.  Some of you reading this today may be yet unaware that part of your personal destiny will be to help build this world.  If we are able to create communities where personal and family recovery can flourish, we may through that process also begin to heal whole communities and spur a renewed vision of a healed world.  You could be an instrument of such healing.