The Process of Recovering

September 18, 2023

When I started peer support almost 3 years ago, I learned how important it was to define recovery for myself. My working definition of recovery is:  

Recovery is celebrating the wins during the ups and keeping hope and an understanding that progress is never linear during the downs and choosing to stay. Recovery is looking backward at progress and forward at the goal. Recovery is both being able to stand on my own two feet and still being able to ask for help when needed. Recovery is thriving and not just surviving.  

Markie Ridgway, Peer Support Specialist

I use this definition as a living document that grows and changes in the same way I do, and I adjust accordingly as I move through life with the ever-changing waves of recovery. Am I recovered? Am I recovering? Am I thriving or just surviving? Yes. To all these questions. Because both/and is a common theme in the world of recovery and living in a state of bittersweet seems to be the common human experience. We are all recovering, and recovered, and in recovery, at any given time on our journeys because we are all human and we all have a “something”. We all have personal struggles we strive to overcome. We all want support and connection with our community. We are all in this human experience together.  

Recently, I heard Charlie Bartlett (a well-known advocate of recovery in Kansas) say, “Recovery isn’t possible. Recovery is probable”. I’ll never forget those words because of how they resonated with me and the idea I had for so long that I wasn’t going to ever recover. I realized how I needed to hear that 30 years ago, but it only happened last week and how time plays tricks on us when we think of recovery as a quick trip to every goal, but the process keeps repeating. We despise hindsight because it isn’t quick enough, but it wouldn’t be effective if not for the missteps we make. I’m not striving for recovery anymore, because as Charlie said, that’s already probable. Instead, I’m going to be intentional about continuing to trust the process of recovering. What we can do is keep showing the messy middle, so others know they aren’t alone on their journeys. We must keep showing up for people, so they know that normal is just a setting on a dryer and not something that’s attainable or even required when making genuine human connections. We need to lean into our communities and be vulnerable and make connections and keep making missteps because the next time hindsight comes uninvited to give us a dose of surprise, we can all chuckle together at the way we’ve all collectively recovered and respond in harmony with a confident “we already know."