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How do you define “recovery”? I recently went through training to become a Certified Peer Counselor. The key message of this training was that “recovery happens”. No matter what you face, or how you struggle, you can improve. Life can get better. There is no defined description of what “recovery” is. It is defined by each person. For one person It can mean no longer taking or needing medication, for another it can mean using medications such as anti-depressants or methadone to stabilize. It can mean using outside assistance such as doctors or self-help groups or it can mean not needing or using outside treatment. The goal is to help people reach their own description of recovery and help them maintain it.

During the class I was politely asked by a classmate how I could be in the class when I was still struggling. The class was for people in recovery who would be able to help others like them achieve their own versions of recovery. She was right in one sense. I was still struggling but I didn’t define “recovery” as being completely healed, never feeling pain or grief. I define recovery in terms of where I am in the fight.

I am a fighter! I am not in recovery because life is easy and I don’t feel any pain. I am in recovery because I’m not giving up, because I face each day trying to find the joy in life wherever I can find it. I am not in recovery because I feel good every day but because I face each day. Yes, I am getting better. The voices are quiet, the delusions are gone. I won some battles and succumbed to others but I don’t let battles define me. I am fierce! I conquer those I can and when I struggle, I learn to fight again. Despite having a mental illness I strive for more. I may not achieve complete wellness by other’s standards but I don’t have to. I can be depressed and strong, distressed and courageous.

I’m still working on what recovery looks like for me but while I do, I support others in their own discoveries. If you wonder where you are in your own struggle, define what “recovery” looks like for you and move forward. Remember you are not alone! You are strong! Reach out to others when you can. I know it’s hard. I’m grateful for those people around me who never gave up and encouraged me to do the same. I‘m grateful for those who prayed for me, some were friends, some were strangers. I was strengthened and encouraged by these simple acts. No matter the pain and anguish we face, we are conquerors. When we forget that truth, life gets harder. When we find the strength to reach out to others that strength is multiplied. We move ever closer to recovery, no matter what it looks like.

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