Recovery and how to keep
alcohol, drugs and
Diane Goslar, Service User, Royal
College of Psychiatrists
This leaflet is for patients, carers and anyone else who would
like to find out more about:
- what recovery is (in my case recovery from alcohol
- what it means
- how to stay strong to overcome your dependence
What is meant by recovery?
What does 'recovery' mean to you? Do you have a fixed
description of it in your mind?
Perhaps for you it's the process after injury, the healing phase
which, having successfully come to an end, enables life to
continues as before - you've recovered.
For recovery from addiction, it's different. Recovery
means dealing with a dependence, such as alcohol, drugs or
gambling, so that it does not take control of you again.
It's not like most other diseases or medical problems - the
problem is never fixed. There is no cure and it is for life. That
can be very depressing, but while it's easy to lose the will to
continue, it is really worthwhile to stick at it and you will
also feel better about yourself.
Recovery is in your hands only
You have to do it yourself; no-one can do it
for you. It's quite useless (indeed often counter-productive) if
someone tries to 'enforce' recovery on you. You have to be
extremely self-motivated. The people in your social
groups probably won't understand what you're doing because
they don't see the problem. More importantly, they won't understand
because you may well not have told them about your dependence as
you are too embarrassed to do so. We all want to be accepted and to
fit in. This can be very hard in the early stages of recovery, but
sharing your goals and struggles with others certainly helps.
Recovery needs support
In recovery, you really need support on several levels: your
family, your friends, your workplace, your GP, just to mention a
few. And this support needs to be on-going because recovery never
ends. It seems that it is understood that support is essential
during treatment and immediately afterwards. But then you may be
left to get on with it, with no support structure in place - and
that is probably one of the reasons that so many people in recovery
So you will need to find a person or group of people with whom
you feel at ease to turn to when things are difficult. In the case
of alcohol abuse, many recovering alcoholics use Alcoholics
Anonymous for this. In fact, there are 12-step support groups for
all addictions. Others keep in touch with people who have gone
through the treatment process at the same time. The important point
is to have regular meetings, whether they are weekly or
Recovery needs structure
You are likely to find that you miss your addiction greatly and
that you will be reminded of it constantly. There are temptations
around us much of the time, in my case in our alcohol-fuelled
society - TV, advertising, cinema and in our everyday speech. Then
there are those well-meaning people who say "surely just one
wouldn't hurt ..."
Taking part in new interesting activities will help you fill the
void created by the removal of whichever dependence you are
recovering from. You also need a structure to deal with those
'temptations'. A good start is to have a number of rules. As part
of my own recovery from alcohol, my rules are:
- I will never touch a bottle or glass of alcohol, either to pass
it on or to service it out. My friends have to help themselves to
an alcoholic drink.
- I will not give alcohol as a gift.
- I do not want to know where the alcohol is kept in our house
(if indeed there is any alcohol in our house).
Recovery needs constant attention
Everyone tries and experiences recovery in their own way.
As I have said, my own addiction is alcohol, and one of the most
important aspects to my recovery is by avoiding drinking alcohol
inadvertently or by mistake. This can happen when it is in food, so
you need to constantly check to see if there is any alcohol in the
food you are buying or eating. You may also need to check whether
anything you eat or drink for religious observance contains alcohol
(for example, communion wine). Discuss this with your religious
leader - most times there are non-alcoholic substitutes and
non-alcoholic wine provided.
Recovery and socialising
Alcohol is everywhere and when you can't drink, you feel
excluded from a large part of social activity. If your social group
of friends drink alcohol, not drinking may make you feel like an
outsider. For example, it's difficult to celebrate or commiserate
without alcohol. There is also a stigma attached to being
alcohol-dependent (which is one reason why you may not wish to tell
everyone about your alcohol problem). This feeling of being outside
the group can make you feel different from the people you are with,
as they happily share a bottle. All you want is to be one of them,
look the same, enjoy the same feelings, be part of the set. This is
probably one of the hardest things to deal with, and you may have
to decide whether to stick with your old friends or find new
Recovery is worthwhile
Dealing with all the issues we've talked about it tough, but
there is no doubt at all that it is worthwhile - it's worth the
work, the organising, the determination. Because most importantly,
you will find that you have your mind back. You will be able to
hold your own in the world again. You will find that you have
recovered your life, your intellect, your sense of fulfilment and
your feeling of worth in society.
Worthwhile fighting to keep those things wouldn't you say?
My rules for my recovery plan
Keep this leaflet in a safe place. You never know if you or
someone you care about might need it.
- Write your feelings down.
- Keep yourself busy.
- Do something to help someone else. Nothing feels quite as good
as knowing you have a purpose in life.
- Do take any support, professional and otherwise, that you
- Keep a reminder of the people or things you love on your
mobile, or in your wallet or purse. Some people also like to carry
photos of people or animals that mean a lot to them.
- Write down what your special rules are to keep yourself safe
from your dependence or problem.
With thanks to Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones for her help and
Please note that we are unable to offer advice on individual cases. Please see our
advice on getting help.
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