Those who adamantly assert that abstinence is “the only way” often have heated debates with harm reductionists who maintain that recovery can include continued, non problematic use of substances. But the truth is that there is no agreement about what defines recovery. Most definitions have come from experts, without input from people who have undergone the process, and typically have included “abstinence” and/or “sobriety.” For instance, a 2007 consensus panel convened by the Betty Ford Institute defined recovery as a “voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship” with “sobriety” referring to abstinence from alcohol and all other non-prescribed drugs.
the panel came up with a working definition of recovery as a starting point to promote better communication, research, and public understanding.
In their paper, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, the panel defines recovery as “a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.”
“Recovery may be the best word to summarize all the positive benefits to physical, mental, and social health that can happen when alcohol- and other drug-dependent individuals get the help they need,” the expert panel wrote in their article.