The Curse of Low Recovery Expectations (Part II)


Recovery is Contagious 5In our last blog, we explored five foundational ideas about addiction that demonize people with alcohol and other drug problems and diminish recovery expectations. We also identified some of the effects such low expectations exert on people seeking recovery. We continue this discussion below.


*been given the impression you have nothing to offer to your treatment other than your silent submission to professional authority,

*been subjected to humiliation and shame-inducing confrontations in the name of treatment,

*been provided information on the problems that recovery could remove from your life but not on the things recovery could add to your life,

*been given the impression that recovery is a depressingly boring life,

*been denied a job, a promotion, a loan, access to educational opportunities, access to housing, health or life insurance, a professional license, or been denied friendship because of your past history of addiction,

*been supported by family members during your addiction but refused support during and following your treatment, or

*if, as a friend, partner, or family member, you have been told there is no action you can take to support the recovery of your loved one until he/she "hits bottom" and seeks help on their own,

THEN, you have experienced the curse of low recovery expectations.

The ideas that make up the core of addiction stigma and low recovery expectations are challenged by a new wave of recovery research confirming six provocative conclusions.

1. The majority of people who experience AOD problems within community populations successfully resolve these problems, including those with prescription drug use disorders. Of those who successfully achieve remission from a substance use disorder (SUD), the majority achieve and maintain recovery stability without experiencing repeated episodes of SUD recurrence and repeated treatment re-admissions.

2. There are multiple pathways and styles of AOD problem resolution.

3. Many people, particularly those with less severe AOD problems, resolve these problems by decelerating the frequency, intensity, and circumstances of AOD use rather than through complete and permanent abstinence, though the latter is associated with a higher quality of life. Many people achieving a moderated resolution of AOD problems do so without embracing a "recovery" identity.

4. Most people resolve AOD problems without participation in specialized professional help or recovery mutual aid groups. Such specialized help is most often used by people for with the most severe, complex, and prolonged AOD problems.

5. Many people who resolve AOD problems, even severe and enduring problems, go on to achieve significant improvements in global health, social functioning, and contributions to the community. These positive effects increase with duration of recovery.

6. Recovery is socially contagious. Recovery is spread within local communities by people who have experienced AOD problem resolution (i.e., recovery carriers) and who share their experience and hope with still-suffering individuals and families. At a community level, recovery prevalence increases in tandem with the density of recovery carriers.

People are dying from low recovery expectations. It is time our expectations were raised regarding the resolution of AOD problems. That will require a sustained campaign of recovery advocacy led by individuals and families sharing the lived experience of recovery and its many varieties. Widespread dissemination of recovery research findings may aid this process, but nothing will be more professionally, politically, and socially powerful than the stories of people whose lives have been transformed by recovery. This is the gift that individuals and families are now bestowing on their communities and their countries. A day may soon come when the curse of low recovery expectations exists only as an artifact of history. What is needed is a low bar of entry for those seeking help for AOD problems, but a high bar of hope and recovery expectations.


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