What Recovery Means to Me

by Mandy Nunes, Assistant Director

September 27, 2022
The meaning of recovery to me has evolved over the years as I have evolved. I remember sitting in county jail thinking, “If I can just not get high, get a job somewhere doing anything, and an apartment, that will be enough for me." My expectations of myself and what life could look like were low. Honestly, if I would have achieved only that, it still would have been recovery, it still would have been a significantly better life than when I was at my lowest. As I started doing the work in treatment court, attending 12 step meetings, and working the steps, I started experiencing some benefits of recovery. I developed connections with people, I found friendships and community. When I started working, I developed pride and dedication. When I got my own place, I developed responsibility for my space. I learned to create peace and safety in my home. These benefits were experienced by letting go of old belief systems about myself and the world around me and rebuilding myself based on new experiences in recovery. I'’ve had to do that many times as I'’ve grown in recovery.

Early on in my recovery, I believed that recovery looked one way, defined only by the abstinence-based recovery models and 12 step-programs I had experienced. If your recovery didn'’t fit into that box, I didn'’t view it as recovery. I didn'’t leave space for recovery from mental health conditions, medication assisted therapy, religious based recovery, harm reduction, moderation, SMART recovery, trauma recovery, or anything else. When I started working with other individuals struggling with substance use disorders and mental health conditions, I developed more empathy. As I connected with them and learned their stories, I started to see things differently. I began to understand that we are all humans with different experiences and not everyone will fit in the same box. When I started doing deep, internal trauma work in therapy and taking mental health medications, I realized that I didn'’t even fit into that box that I created, anymore. I took a hard look at that belief system I created in early recovery. I created that box for me and others like me to fit into, to be a part of, to belong. I hadn'’t realized how small that box would become and how my beliefs about recovery were hurtful and divisive. I am grateful to all the people I know that challenge me to consider new viewpoints and information. I’m not trying to fit people into boxes anymore.

I have learned throughout the years that recovery isn'’t one size fits all. Recovery happens via many pathways, and just because it doesn'’t look like someone else’s, doesn'’t mean it isn'’t recovery. Recovery is about learning and growing, it’s about working towards becoming better and having a better quality of life. Every individual has their own voice and choice in what that will look like for themselves. Recovery to me means I’m doing the work to continuously improve myself, my wellness, my life. I take mental health medications, attend therapy, play sports, spend time with friend and family, spend time with other people in recovery, work diligently at an organization I love to expand recovery-oriented services in our state. I have a beautiful family that I adore, and I am building a life so far beyond what I hoped for in jail. Your recovery journey may be different than mine. Regardless of what it looks like, I believe in you, and I am so happy you are here!

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