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The Pillars of Recovery

Issue 18

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pillar as “a firm upright support for a superstructure.”

This is a perfect description of the four pillars of recovery!

Home, Health, Purpose, and Community are the four supports for a super recovery.

In 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) convened a group of people in recovery from behavioral health conditions (substance use and mental health disorders) to define “recovery.” The group defined recovery as, “A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.” They emphasized recovery as a process of change that looks different in the beginning than it does years later in long term recovery. They also identified four dimensions that support a life in recovery — the four pillars — that will change over the course of your recovery.


Home is a stable and safe place to live. For people in early recovery, a safe home usually means a place where relapse prevention and peer support are prioritized, like in a recovery residence. Later on, independent living with peers can create confidence and connections. Living alone can create time for reflection and creative pursuits. Living with a partner or family

Wherever you live, it’s important to be in an environment where you can keep your recovery front and center. When asked, “what’s the best recovery residence or living situation?” Ron Springel, Executive Director of the Maine Association of Recovery Residents, responds, “the one where you got well.”


Taking care of your health in early recovery is an important part of overall wellness. Going to a doctor, dentist, or traditional healer to deal with physical health issues is a good start. Making healthy choices like eating nutritious food and getting regular exercise and sleep are important, too. When you’re ready, quitting smoking is one of the most important steps you can take to improve and maintain your health. (Did you know that people treated for alcohol or drug addiction are more likely to die from smoking related diseases than from causes related to their drug use?)

But health isn’t just about the body, it’s also about our emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Being in touch with your feelings, forming caring relationships, and understanding your place in the universe contribute to your health, too.

Creating a healthy lifestyle is good for recovery! As the Arabic proverb says, “He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything.”


We all need to find meaning in our daily activities. That can be through work, volunteering, taking care of other people, and creative activities. Work can give us the resources to participate fully in society. Volunteering is an important way of giving back. Taking care of our family, by supporting them financially, taking care of their physical and emotional needs, and growing with them is meaningful for many of us.

We also find meaning in creativity. Journaling or drawing can help quiet your mind and slow down the world, so you feel present in your recovery. Dancing and singing can bring you into the moment and remind you of the sheer pleasure of living. Playing music with other people can create joyful and memorable connections.


Relationships and social networks with other people in recovery can provide support, friendship, love, and hope. Spending time with people who have been down the same road, who “get you,” can be healing, meaningful, and just plain fun. Joining – or rejoining – a community outside recovery circles when it feels right can create opportunities to meet new people and learn new things. You might even feel comfortable sharing your recovery experience as one way to educate people, reduce stigma and create hope in the community.

Adding it all together — health, home, purpose, and community — creates a solid foundation for recovery, no matter where you are in your journey.

Alison Webb (Recovery Allies)
Alison Webb (Recovery Allies)
Alison Jones Webb, a public health specialist and recovery advocate, is the author of Recovery Allies: How to Support Addiction Recovery and Build Recovery-Friendly Communities. She has spoken at numerous professional meetings and is a certified prevention specialist and recovery coach.

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