Copyright Rights for Recovery - 2016

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Rituals in Recovery

Rituals in Recovery

Those of us that live life in recovery from substance use disorders, mental health concerns, or other behavioral health disorders, know full well the value that daily rituals provide us in our journey for wellness. Whether you call them a design for living, self-care, or a daily routine – these habits often keep us on the straight and narrow path to happiness.

Mutual-aid program participants (think 12-step programs, SMART recovery, etc.) often have very strict regimens of daily rituals. I myself find time for these, as it provides a sense of calm and serenity over the course of the day. A typical day may start with a dose of meditation and prayer, continue with self-reflection and a mid-day “personal inventory” (being aware of our actions, feelings, and reactions), and end with a verbal account of that full-day personal inventory with another person in recovery and taking action where we must.

For those participating in other forms of recovery philosophies (or pathways), these daily rituals often times take the name of self-care. These include things like meditation and mindfulness throughout the day, nutritious eating (including breakfast!), regular therapy and counseling sessions (writer’s note: some of the healthiest people I know, have been in therapy for years – just saying), or finding time to decompress and process the day without distractions.

Now – it sounds like these rituals are ironically very similar, perhaps just labeled different things? From a member of a mutual-aid recovery program, working a different type of program can often times be a very taboo thing. For members of the general public, whom do not consider themselves in recovery, any type of recovery program is often taboo as well. The reality though is, regardless of our recovery status and regardless of the way that we work to thrive in that recovery, we are all pretty similar. I would challenge all of you to think about the daily rituals in which you engage. These activities aren’t specific to you, one program, or recovery. As humans, we find ways to cope – for some these things are positive, and for others they are negative.

We are bombarded on a reoccurring basis on how so very different we are from each other – when often times we really need to be reminded of how similar we exist. Just as I practice a new way of living, focused on being a decent person and being aware of my actions and their impact, so do most people we would consider “good human beings”. My path, and most paths of those in recovery, may have flowed to that way of living by a different road, but being there is what matters. Recovery status and the way that recovery is maintained isn’t a reason for xenophobia among those in the recovery community, or those outside of it.  We are all much more similar that we care to admit, and it is time we embraced that.

At the end of the day, being in “recovery” or being “normal” is really the exact same thing – we are finding positive ways to live a life that is full of happiness and meaning. Our daily rituals don’t set us apart; they bring us closer together.

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Robert Ashford, BSW is a man in long-term recovery who advocates for recovery, behavioral health policy, criminal justice reform, and many other social justice issues. He holds a BSW from the University of North Texas, and is currently at University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice to complete an MSW program. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Renew Magazine, Addiction Unscripted, and the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy. He is also the founder of the multi-author advocacy platform, Rights for Recovery.


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