Recovery is the practice of finding and claiming the lost pieces of ourselves.
I love this definition because, even though recovery is often seen as belonging to mental health or addiction issues, this statement applies to everyone. Seriously, do you know anyone who hasn’t lost parts of themselves as they have moved through life? Love, fear, expectations, trying to please others, reactions to traumatic events, addictions, and a myriad of other reasons lead us to give up hopes, dreams, and images of self. Some of us have more issues than others and more pieces to recover, but we are all on a continuum of doing this work. When we understand that mental health is something that happens on a continuum, it allows us to see our commonality with our friends and family who may have more serious mental health or addiction issues. We are all humans experiencing different states of wellness.
This definition also highlights the intentional nature of recovery. It is not an accident or a spontaneous remission or a quirk. It is a practice – a practice of putting activities into place that increase the probability of finding our lost pieces and our wellness. Most of us have a clear idea of what it means to practice piano or practice tennis. What does it mean to practice wellness and recovery? We begin to identify the things that contribute to our wellness and we do them on a regular basis. It also might mean identifying the things that sabotage our wellness and working to eliminate those from our lives. Small acts can tip the balance: reaching out to other people for support; having hope that things can change; eating real food; getting enough rest; spending time with others in recovery; avoiding stressful situations, and incorporating meditation or other mindfulness practices into the day.
I also like this definition because it applies to healing our culture, not just individuals. Recovery, after all, does not happen in a vacuum. Can we even have healthy individuals if our culture is not healthy? It may be time to think about the pieces we have lost as a culture and how we can recover them. Just for starters:
Can we reclaim living in communities where people know and support each other?
Can we reclaim being citizens instead of consumers whose only purpose is to buy stuff?
Can we reclaim respect for the planet (the only one we have) that keeps us alive?
Can we create a culture (a whole culture, not just pockets of resistance) that facilitates health and wellness instead of dis-ease? What would that look like?
 I am indebted to one of the participants in the Colorado Mental Wellness Network’s Peer Specialist training program for suggesting this definition.