Recovery: The Myth of Willingness and Authenticity

I recently saw a meme on social media that stated “Recovery is not for those who need it, it’s for those who want it.” Full disclosure, it sparked anger or frustration within me. I personally have 37 years of recovery and 29 years of experience working with individuals diagnosed with substance use disorders. I have rarely met someone in early recovery who truly wanted it. Most of the time their “want” was to stop disappointing family, to stop being sick, to get their job back or to get charges dropped. Most people I’ve worked with struggled with wanting actual recovery though.

At 17 years old, I myself did not want to be in recovery. I thought it meant my life would be over, or at best boring. It took me almost two years of being in active recovery to actually want it. So why did I continue to take direction, seek treatment and utilize self help groups? As a child of an alcoholic, I was also blessed with a significant amount of codependency. The people in these groups were nice to me and I didn’t want to disappoint them. In my case, my unhealthy patterns of codependency are what helped me, not my willingness, to stay active in recovery those first few years.

Ambivalence is not the enemy of recovery. It’s a part of recovery that needs to be acknowledged and discussed. Embracing ambivalence, not being afraid to give it space and letting go of shame often allows taking action and following through with what is really helpful.

The old narrative that a person just doesn’t want recovery enough doesn’t help anyone and in many cases creates a barrier to a person reaching back out for help. We have to look at the factors that contribute to relapse and help create plans that support healthy behaviors. How we frame this ongoing journey is vital, especially when people are at their most vulnerable.

Being a professional in alumni engagement, my role is to keep people connected to resources long after their initial treatment experience, and just as important, meet them where they are. As the needs of a person in recovery change or a challenge arises, ongoing connection to positive peer support is invaluable. Being free to talk about and embrace all of our feelings and thoughts around a situation creates an atmosphere where people also feel free to examine the solutions in a positive and open manner.  

I have witnessed this process on our Pinnacle Fellowship countless times - open discussions taking place about relapse, family, meetings or just being tired. The app gives people a space to talk about it all. Together we can and should continue to have conversations about the hard stuff. We honor recovery and ourselves when we live and love with authenticity.

Joi Honer, BA CAC CCDP, is a certified addiction counselor with a bachelor’s degree in addiction studies. While her first 17 years were devoted to clinical services, the last 12 years Joi has worked in alumni services and alumni services leadership. As a person 37 years of long-term recovery, Joi is both personally and professionally passionate about providing after treatment support for all who seek recovery from the impact of substance use disorders.

Pinnacle Treatment Centers Network is a recognized leader in comprehensive substance use services with locations including Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. A full continuum of quality care includes detoxification for residential and outpatient clients as well as transitional living programs. Pinnacle treats the individual’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological well-being. Each center focuses on patient-centered care and an individualized approach, upholding a high standard of medically assisted treatment and compassionate attention to each patient’s needs. For more information, visit www.pinnacletreatment.com.