What is Recovery? – A Brief Look at our Destination

One thing we all can agree on? Recovery is the goal!

But, while the word recovery has a specific meaning, in the context of addiction and treatment, it can be a harder thing to pin down.

Addiction is a bit easier. To the brain, addiction looks basically the same whether the person is addicted to sex, sugar, or painkillers. Even the symptoms of withdrawal can be similar.

Defining Addiction Recovery

But addiction is complicated by the vast number of different substances or activities that can be addictive. While addiction is rightfully considered a disease today, a disorder of the brain, it is still behavioral and that behavior is different if you’re entering a casino, or a bar, or a doctor’s office. Different addictive substances or activities can also have vastly different effects on the body.

And the underlying causes of addiction also vary widely, ranging from obvious stresses in the environment, to malnutrition, to genetic predisposition.

So while addiction is a treatable condition, successful treatment is likely to look different for each individual.

Recovery will look different, as well.

It can be difficult to reach recovery or stay in recovery without a clear picture of what recovery looks like.

To aid in the recovery process, we created a word cloud that can serve as a tool in defining recovery. This word cloud has been developed out of the responses to a small survey we conducted, of former addicts, current treatment professionals, and random other members of society.

As with any definition of recovery, it isn’t a complete picture, and can’t possibly address the recovery scenario of every person battling addiction. But, what this word cloud does is establish some commonalities of recovery in a visually attractive way.

Below please see our recovery word cloud, and read on after for selected quotes and discussion.

What is Recovery? Recovery Word Cloud

What is Recovery? Select excerpts from our survey

…a meaningful life in sobriety…

During treatment, a person battling addiction must work hard to find something to live for, something to give life meaning. Only then can the recovery process begin.

…the gift of giving back…

Recovery is a gift. Part of that gift allows the former addict to become a friend, a family member again, and a contributing member of society, again. A person in recovery must cherish that gift always, and never take it for granted.

…working on improving mind, body, and spirit…

Physical self-care includes exercise, sleep, and nutrition. Spiritual self-care involves a love of self, appreciation for downtime, and balance. A person in recovery must be mindful of the effort in these areas, at all times.

…being honest, open minded and willing at all times…

As said best in the Big Book – “only by discussing ourselves, holding back nothing, only by being willing to take advice and accept direction could we set foot on the road to straight thinking, solid honesty and genuine humility”

…improve quality of life for self and subsequently the lives of others surrounding you…

Addiction can easily lead to selfishness, as the focus of life becomes a substance: the source of addiction. Costs of addiction can include relationships, and the love of friends and family. Inevitably recovery will change the lives of these loved ones for the better.

…a new way of life…

Addiction treatment is all about replacing unhealthy habits with healthy habits. Part of the recovery process is learning to live with and appreciate these new habits. Recognizing the importances of this new way of life is critical to maintaining recovery.


A person battling addiction is trapped by his or her chosen substance or activity. Every part of a person’s life is planned around addiction. With the burden lifted, a person in recovery is free to make new choices, without burden.