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What is Recovery

By: Candice Dwyer and William Craft


“We believe recovery is an inclusive process and we welcome you to register and participate in the IQRR, regardless of whether you’re currently struggling. Please help us help others!” 

-The IQRR Team

Ideas about recovery from addiction vary widely, and none are widely accepted as the only “correct” definition. Some recovery communities, such as 12-step or faith-based groups, focus on abstinence from substance use and belief in a higher power as their most important goals. Other communities, like SMART Recovery, are secular and focus on reducing problematic substance use and restoring lifestyle balance. We believe that recovery is a personal process that is unique to everyone. To that end, the IQRR is inclusive of different pathways, so that we may better understand all forms of recovery.

The belief that recovery from addiction is unique and personal to everyone has become increasingly clear. For example, one individual may decide that what’s best for their recovery is to remain completely abstinent while seeking professional counseling. Another individual may believe that seeking religious guidance while continuing to use substances is their method of recovery. A goal of health science is to observe and measure outcomes to understand and inform better methods of healthcare. To do this, it is important to have clear definitions of what you want to measure. This is a challenge for scientists trying to understand and treat addiction and is one reason why scientific definitions of recovery vary so widely. Simply put, we would like individuals who are dealing with addiction to know that your recovery is just that, it's yours. You define what it means to be in recovery, and we want to understand what that is so that your experience can help others heal from addiction as well.


As clinicians in the United States, alcohol and substance use disorders are diagnosed using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5). Each substance is diagnosed separately, meaning you can have a tobacco use disorder but not an alcohol use disorder. Up to 12 criteria can be endorsed, resulting in varying severities (mild = 2-3 symptoms; moderate = 4-5 symptoms; and severe = 6+ symptoms). To be considered in early remission, an individual must, after having met criteria for a substance use disorder (SUD), met no criteria for at least 3, but less than 12 months, except for craving. Conversely, sustained remission is meeting no criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD) or SUD after having met criteria, for at least 12 months, except for craving. Together, abstinence is neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve remission from addiction. * 

Importantly, your clinical remission status is, for scientific purposes, different from your recovery status. While remission is an objective, clinical construct, recovery is a process by which you seek to change behavior that you are dissatisfied with to improve your quality of life and achieve your personal goals. 


Overall, the IQRR adheres to an inclusive concept of recovery, and in this - does not require you to be in remission nor abstinent. If you’ve recognized that your substance use is negatively impacting your life, and you’ve tried to change your behavior or reduce your use - you are considered to be engaged in recovery and are welcome to register and participate in the IQRR, regardless of whether you’re currently struggling.

To find additional support and recovery resources, check out our resources page here. If you are in recovery, you can become a member of the International Quit & Recovery Registry by registering here, where you can take our monthly assessments, earn rewards, and get support from other Recovery Heroes. Please help us help others by registering and growing our community!

*Any information contained in this blog post is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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