Building Blocks For Recovery
The recovery road is smoother for some people than others, and one of the reasons is that some people start out with more recovery capital than others.
If you start your recovery journey living in a house, with supportive friends and family, you’ll probably have an easier path than someone who starts out homeless and has alienated everyone who used to care.
What is recovery capital?
It’s all those assets you bring to your recovery, like your problem-solving skills, self-esteem, mental health, and hope. It includes safe housing, food, transportation, money and financial stability, and insurance. It also includes your personal beliefs, values, preferences and behaviors that come from your culture.
In short, recovery capital is what people in recovery need to live healthy lives. That means your physical life—a place to live, healthy food, a good job, financial stability, and also your social life—relationships, family ties, and community connections—your love life, and your spiritual life.
Brittany Reichmann, a 30-something woman in recovery, has noticed how her recovery capital has changed as her recovery has matured and deepened.
At first, in her late 20s, she needed a safe place to live when she left treatment, so she moved to a recovery residence. There, she found more than just a roof over her head. She found the structure and support she needed to organize the chaos in her life. “That’s where I built a foundation that I could stand on the day that I left. I needed that. I had to have that. I couldn’t do it on my own, and I couldn’t do it at home. I had some semblance of order in my life at the recovery residence. In that first year, I had a job that gave me enough financial stability, but I had debts that I worked to pay back. I also had work to do on relationships with my family and friends to rebuild trust,” Brittany says.
Around a year after living in the house, she moved into her first apartment with some friends, and she saw a huge increase in her recovery capital.
She paid nearly all her own bills and paid off her first debt. She began to realize that she had the skills and confidence she needed to live outside the structured living of a recovery residence.
She recognized another turning point, about six months later. She was able to navigate the difficult emotions and anxiety that arose when her roommate returned to active use-without starting to use herself.
These were emotions she had never experienced in sobriety, and she got through them with the support of family and friends.
At about two-and-a-half years in recovery, she applied for the Project Assistant position at the Maine Association of Recovery Residences. “I had tried so many times to get sober, and recovery housing was a big part of my journey,” Brittany says. Being in a recovery residence was like ‘going home’ for me, and I just decided to go for it, and I got the job. The day I started at MARR was the day my boyfriend proposed, so that was a big day!
And that’s when I started to think about the bigger things I actually wanted in life. I wanted to be married, and I wanted to be a mom.”
She tears up when she talks about her son, now eight months old.
“So together we continued to work on finances, got a mortgage, bought a house, and had a child,” she says. “All of this real-life stuff started happening.”
Now, five years in recovery, Brittany sees how her recovery capital has grown as her recovery has matured.
“Anything that I could have imagined that I wanted when I got sober, I have now,” she says. “I’m able to put into practice some of those ‘social capital ingredients’— persistence, open-mindedness, honesty, forgiveness, ability to admit when you’re wrong—all of those things you need to be in a healthy relationship. And then learning how to be selfless as a parent. That has allowed me to continue to reprioritize as my life has changed.”
What’s next on Brittany’s recovery journey?
She recently met with Bob MacKenzie, Kennebunk Chief of Police, about joining Rotary. He thought Brittany would be a “good fit” for Rotary, and she agrees.
“My job is recovery-based, my husband is in recovery, my friends are all in recovery, so much of my life is about recovery, and I find it meaningful to do community work that isn’t recovery-related. So, this is perfect!”