In the past, treatment of addiction has been clinical and focused on fixing a problem (removal of the substance or behaviour), thereby creating a level of sobriety and “moving on” in life.
In recent years growing scientific evidence has helped us better understand addiction. The neuroscience of the brain. The environmental and societal factors that impact addiction and recovery. And genetics and epigenetics that can create predisposition. We have also learned that though treatment is one component of recovery, recovery itself is far more complex and unique to each person and their circumstances.
Dr. Johann Hari has stated “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is human connection”. Research has also demonstrated that positively enhancing long term recovery outcomes occurs best in an atmosphere of CHIME. Connection, Hope, Identity, Meaning and Empowerment.
The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is human connection.Dr. Johann Hari
William White has been a leading influencer in bringing this into a model of recovery through his work in shifting the paradigm from a pathological and intervention focus to one of recovery. (White 2004, 2005). His emphasis on assessing and building one’s recovery capital has ignited this field of recovery coaching to improve long term recovery outcomes.
Recovery capital is defined as “the breadth and depth of internal and external resources that can be drawn upon to initiate and sustain recovery.” (Granfield & Cloud 1999; Cloud & Granfield 2004)
Recovery capital is based on using one’s strengths to build one’s own agency for change and self efficacy. It promotes the assertive linkages to external resources to overcome identified barriers. It espouses that belonging to and support within recovery communities as a key factor in achieving long term recovery outcomes.
The model proposes four types of capital which interplay to positively impact recovery.
The first is Personal/Physical Capital. These represent the internal aspects of ourselves as well as the externals that impact our environment. The internals include such factors as: coping skills, self esteem, self awareness, emotional regulation, and ability to take action. The external includes factors such as: access to medical and psychological care, meaningful employment, food safety and housing.
Social Capital refers to the family, intimate and social relationships that positively impact and support us. This includes such factors as empowered work environments, family support systems, peer support groups, recovery communities and social (re)integration.
Collective/Community Capital represents community attitudes, resources, and policies to support individuals in recovery. This includes such factors as housing, employment services, intervention programs, mental health supports, recovery-oriented systems of care, trauma informed policies and actions to address stigma. The more communities can build a wide variety of assets, which work in tandem to reduce barriers to access, the easier it is to provide referrals and linkages.
Cultural Capital represents the accumulation of knowledge, behaviours and skills in supportive, like-minded communities. In environments of safety and openness, individuals can explore beliefs, values, and personal identity creating a greater understanding of self and recovery. Recovery within Indigenous
or LGBT+ communities would be examples of such. This confirmation and exploration of identity within this space allows for enhanced feelings of self worth, purpose and connection.
What This Means for All of Us in Recovery
First, we can assess our own recovery capital. William White has developed such tools as BARC-10 and Recovery Capital Scale to measure the components of each domain. Through identifying our strengths, we can determine those factors we bring to our recovery and how we can build from these to overcome barriers and deficits.
We can also identify critical areas of our recovery capital that are low and determine what resources can be brought into play to address these concerns.
Experience has shown that recovery capital and how factors interrelate are unique to each of us. Seemingly small things may have substantial impact on one’s recovery capital, whereas others may require bigger changes to create impact.
From this assessment, individuals in recovery with the help of a recovery coach can create goals and paths to enhance recovery outcomes. To chart progress, the assessments can be taken over periods of time. This allows individuals to build confidence and celebrate wins. It is well known recovery is NOT linear. Yet the recognition of goal achievement and that small changes over time build long term change are critical.
If you wish to learn more about recovery coaching and the recovery capital model, please reach out to me.
Cloud, W., & Granfield, R. (2004). A life course perspective on exiting addiction: The relevance of recovery capital in treatment. NAD Publication (Nordic Council for Alcohol and Drug Research).
Granfield, R., & Cloud, W. (1999). Coming clean: Overcoming addiction without treatment. New York: New York University Press. Humphreys, K., Moos, R. J., & Cohen, C. (1997).
Leamy M, Bird V, Le Boutillier C, Williams J, SladeM. Conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis. Br J Psychiatry. 2011;199(6):445.
Weiss, Robert. The Opposite of Addiction is Connection. Psychology Today. Posted September 30, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2022
White, W. & Cloud, W. (2008). Recovery capital: A primer for addictions professionals. Counselor, 9(5), 22-27. Recovery Capital: A Primer for Addictions Professional