"Recovery begins well before the day of last drug use"

I love the idea of recovery beginning months, even years before the last day of drug use, with numerous junctures where we could step in, offering our compassion and our commitment to help stop addiction's progression.  Recovery is a process that unfolds over time.  Family members, friends, teachers, counselors, doctors, and treatment professionals can speed up that process as Bill White outlines below in this excerpt from his inspiring memoir, RECOVERY RISING.  Much gratitude to Bill for his willingness to allow me to use this excerpt from his book.


            For years, I have written about the need for what I have called recovery priming—identifying, engaging, and motivating people in need of addiction recovery. In fact, my earliest days as a "streetworker" more than four decades ago focused specifically on such work. But during those years, I lacked the experience to fully conceptualize this process. During 2012 and 2013, I maintained a sustained meditation on what precisely happens within the years, months, and days that precede conscious recovery initiation. What became evident was that, for many people, the recovery process begins well before the day of last drug use, but little attention has been given to this period of recovery priming that unfolds during active drug use. I came to think of this period as precovery. Reviewing over four decades of personal and professional experiences working with active drug users transitioning into recovery, I concluded that the first day of abstinence was not the first milestone of recovery initiation but the outcome of a movement towards healing and wholeness that has in many cases been unfolding for quite some time.

            Precovery involves several simultaneous processes: physical depletion of the drug's once esteemed value, cognitive disillusionment with the using lifestyle (a "crystallization of discontent" resulting from a pro/con analysis of "the life"), growing emotional distress and self-repugnance, spiritual hunger for something in one's life of greater meaning and purpose, and (perhaps most catalytic in terms of reaching the recovery initiation tipping point) exposure to recovery carriers—people who offer living proof and a contagious hope for a meaningful life in recovery. Collectively, these precovery processes reflect a progressive synergy of pain and hope.

Unfortunately, it can often take decades for these processes to unfold naturally. If a conceptual breakthrough of note is present in the addictions field in recent years, it is that such processes can be stimulated and accelerated. Today, enormous efforts are being expending to accelerate precovery processes for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and other chronic disorders. We as a culture are not waiting for people to seek help at the latest stages of these disorders when their potentially fatal consequences can no longer be ignored. We are identifying these disorders early, engaging those with these disorders in assertive treatment and sustained recovery monitoring and support processes.

"What are you and your program doing to accelerate . . .  precovery processes for those in the earliest stages of their addiction careers? Imagine what it would mean to these individuals, their families, and their communities if we could even cut their years of addiction in half. What we lack as a culture is not the technology to achieve that goal but the collective compassion and commitment to do it."

Kathy KetchamComment