Recovery Defined. Professionals in the behavioral health field have discussed these two terms for decades. They debate such questions as “What does it mean to be fully recovered?” and “Can recovery ever be fully quantified?”
Certain clinicians define recovery according to the DSM-IV, meaning that recovery is achieved when the individual no longer meets the criteria for the mental illness. This means the person no longer struggles with alcohol, drugs, food, or body image to the extent required by psychiatrists to make a formal diagnosis of substance abuse, eating disorder, or major depressive disorder.
At Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, we concur with the “no longer struggling” aspect of this viewpoint; yet we believe real recovery transcends this strict definition. We want every woman and adolescent in our care to go on to live an abundant life, complete with ongoing personal, spiritual and emotional growth. We believe the essence of a life in recovery is a woman’s continual growth towards her higher power’s objective for her life, which equals her full potential.
As proponents of 12-step treatment, part of a healthy, rich life often includes regular attendance at 12-step meetings, such as AA, OA, Al-anon, etc. Those who balk at this concept maintain that such meetings should no longer be attended if the person is truly recovered. But, we think differently.
Consider church attendance. When a woman becomes a committed believer, does she stop going to church? Certainly not. She continues to show up every Sunday for years because the service and environment feeds her soul, comforts her heart and nurtures her spirit. Believers attend because church has intrinsic value. The same holds true with the 12-step program. “Must” recovered alcoholics go to AA meetings? No, they go because the message, interaction and environment remain an important component of their lives and spiritual growth.
Additionally, many professionals contend that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, once an anorexic always an anorexic, etc. This viewpoint has validity in one regard: the genetic predisposition is a permanent part of a person’s physical makeup. Therefore, if a woman has an “allergic” reaction to alcohol, meaning she simply cannot stop drinking once she starts, that will remain unchanged. However, what will change dramatically is the emotional/spiritual piece of who she is … and that is a life-altering and extremely profound experience.
- Dr. Kim Dennis