The Rutland Centre’s Guide to Recovery Capital
Recovery Month is an international initiative each September. One of its aims is to promote awareness and understanding around substance misuse including alcohol and drugs. Additionally, Recovery Month (sometimes referred to as ‘International Recovery Month’) seeks to champion and celebrate individuals from all walks of life who have managed to carry out a successful recovery.
In the USA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (‘SAMHSA’) sponsors Recovery Month and they have a bespoke Recovery Month website.
In 2016, we launched our own September Recovery Month initiative which we have built on year on year. We now have dedicated Recovery Month resources on our website.
One crucial aspect to successful recovery is the resources available to an individual to help them on their journey. This has given rise to the concept of ‘recovery capital’.
What is Recovery Capital?
For individuals who are experiencing challenges from alcohol or substance addiction, making a resolution to quit that addiction is an important first step. However, it is the first step of a much longer personal journey. That journey, hopefully culminating in sustained recovery, can be complicated by challenges, doubts, temporary setbacks and obstacles.
Recovery Capital is the extent and quality of resources that can support an individual through the initiation and maintenance of their recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. These resources can be both internal (such as close family support networks) and external (accessibility to affordable healthcare, for example). It can present itself in many forms, including:
- social support networks
- increased exposure or openness to religion or spirituality
- access to effective healthcare and accommodation
- sufficient ability to identify and pursue recreational activity
The Philosophy Behind Recovery Capital
Traditionally, research and the development of many treatment programmes focused on reasons why individuals might become addicted to alcohol or substance abuse. Consideration of wider situational factors, and the opportunities afforded by them to initiate and sustain recovery, were investigated in less depth.
Additionally, these traditional methods of recovery have been known to lead to certain challenges. A fundamental lack of motivation to change, high levels of emotional distress both for the individual and for their friends, family, and wider community, and ongoing temptation or pressure to regress when in private or certain social situations, have all been noted as triggers leading to relapse. Recovery capital represents an opportunity to develop treatments in such a way that mitigates against these challenges.
Recovery capital in all of its forms such as social support networks, increased exposure or openness to religion or spirituality, the availability of shelter, and access to healthcare, all improves and increases the ability of many individuals to deal with the worry, stress and lifestyle challenges during the various phases of recovery.
Effective treatment for substance and alcohol misuse is increasingly being understood by addiction experts as a collection of multilayered aspects, not dissimilar from treatment for unrelated physical illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or asthma. This means that recovery from substance misuse is an ongoing process beyond clinical treatment. This process needs refinement, individualization and development over time. Recovery capital aids recovery within this newer multilayered understanding.
Clinical and other studies have been conducted which suggest that hoping genuinely for a better life can become a source of motivation for many individuals suffering with alcohol or drugs misuse. The hope, combined with determination, can work to initiate and sustain recovery. Resources which improve the amount of recovery capital available to an individual will typically serve to increase their hope and therefore the likelihood of initiating and sustaining recovery.
Recovery Capital: Different Types
Recovery capital comes in various different forms, which are outlined below.
Fundamental aspects of functioning are typically seen as essential for the individual and they form a critical part of Recovery capital. Examples would include:
- the ability and willingness to maintain healthy eating;
- habits which are conducive for physical activity;
- the availability of leisure activity;
- and opportunities to take on responsibility within a social context.
Typically, these types of capital are valuable during the middle and late phases as the individual seeks to return to a higher quality of life and confront fundamental questions such as ‘what do I do now?’
The availability of different types of social support, an openness to embrace spirituality either within a specific religion, or on a more ethereal level, the support networks to approach questions like the meaning of life, optional acceptance of 12-step affiliation, are all factors which are often considered as fundamental cornerstones of recovery capital because over time they have been influential factors behind recovery. They also typically reduce stress during the recovery period.
Personal recovery capital usually comprises two distinct types: physical personal recovery and human capital recovery.
An individual's physical recovery capital can include:
- personal physical health,
- an individual’s financial situation,
- their ability to access health facilities
- availability of secure, safe accommodation conducive to recovery
- access to sufficient and appropriate clothing
- a lack of stress around the availability of food
- access public and/or private transportation
Access to health facilities is particularly important as individuals undergo a recovery. Typically, there will be obstacles and other points at which they will need either general or specialist medical advice.
Human recovery capital focuses more on an individual's ability to access and build upon knowledge, the availability of vocational skills or other qualifications which might improve quality of life, the adaptability they might have to refine their skills and seize new opportunities, a self-awareness and level of confidence to be able to access new social situations, and an ability to be able to confront and accurately assess situations from a risk and reward perspective.
Family recovery capital, sometimes also referred to as social recovery capital, includes the close personal relationships which an individual has with their family and friends. This can include the social relationships that they may have beyond intimate family and friends who can support their efforts to initiate or sustain recovery. Very often, the availability and willingness of others to be present within the framework of the individual's recovery makes all the difference. Family recovery capital is therefore an important predictor of successful recovery.
Moreover, family and social recovery capital often work well in combination. In this scenario, a number of partners, mentors and family members join forces in order to support the individual in their treatment.
The ability of the individual to get access to situations which are conducive to recovery, for example sobriety based fellowship or leisure groups, and the ability to connect with effective institutions, for example schools or places of work, all contribute towards family or social recovery capital.
Community recovery capital includes policy and legislation in force within the individual’s community. These can include local initiative and other resources which directly seek to address and support addiction or recovery. Many societies include specific legislation, local government task forces or social welfare policies designed to address and combat alcohol or other drug addictions.
A specific form of community recovery capital, cultural capital, is often viewed as distinguishable from other types of community recovery capital.
Phases of Recovery Capital
Recovery is a highly complicated and multi-layered process. The phases and experiences which individuals in recovery go through do not just vary: they become highly complicated at various junctures. It is important to distinguish between phases and understand how different types of recovery capital can support each.
The Foundation (‘Early’) Phase
The first phase, often called the ‘early’ or ‘foundation’ phase, is characterized by an individual resolving to initiate their recovery. Once this foundation phase has been established, individuals typically prioritize efforts around living a normal life and looking at how best they can cope with and maintain their abstinence.
During this phase, social recovery capital is critical and in many cases cultural recovery capital can make significant differences to the success of individuals who have initiated recovery.
The Recovery (‘Middle’) Phase
The next phase, often termed the ‘middle’ or ‘recovery’ phase, is more of a transitional period. At this stage, a more conscious set of decisions are made by the individual as they seek to change their focus beyond initiation and towards permanent abstinence. In other words, the individual is looking to make their recovery ‘the norm’. Social and community recovery capital are invaluable at this stage as the individual looks to create social connections, pursue leisure activities and integrate into society.
The Late Phase
This phase can sometimes seem counterintuitive to people who have not themselves faced challenges with recovery. It typically commences when the individual realizes they have managed to sustain their recovery. At this point, they need to confront a fundamental question:
‘I have managed to get this far through a structured recovery programme. That structure will need to wind down at some stage. So what do I do next?’
This phase is often characterized by personal growth and a more fundamental search for meaning, both of oneself and of broader dynamics like life or the universe. Continued community social recovery capital, family recovery capital and human recovery capital all continue to play a vital role in this phase.
The Role of Religion in Recovery Capital
Not all recovering individuals embrace spirituality. In fact, there is no clear evidence that embracing spirituality is a critical success factor of successful recovery in and of itself.
That said, many individuals do tend to reflect that a spiritual connection of some description is an important component of their recovery process. This appears to be supported by individual experiences from different cultures across the world, suggesting that higher baseline spirituality is a good predictor of higher perceived quality of life, more determined hope and reduced stress.
Rutland Centre’s Approach
At Rutland Centre, our recovery programmes factor in recovery capital at their core. We understand that it is essential for addiction treatment programs, and the experts who develop them, to include involvement with key individuals and institutions beyond the individual.
In treating addiction, we use a drug-free approach. We are not religious and "support all beliefs and none". In this context, we have developed an integrative method blending spirituality where appropriate and self-reflection with psychology and psychotherapy. In this way, we address all aspects of an individual’s life.
In our experience, an abstinence-based recovery program provides the best chance for long term recovery. Throughout your time with the Rutland Centre, you will engage in group therapies with others in situations that are similar to your own. This experience helps to increase family and cultural recovery capital.
At Rutland, we offer several services which can help family and friends as well as the individual:
Concerned Persons (“CP”) Workshop Programme
These are organized periodically, and are designed to improve the human recovery capital resources available to family members and friends. This in turn improves the recovery capital resources open to individuals who are seeking to initiate or maintain their recovery. They are open to any member of the public whose life has been affected by the drinking, drug use, gambling or compulsive behaviours of a family member or friend.
These events are designed for families and friends, which again brings a human recovery capital and sometimes cultural recovery capital dimension to individuals in recovery programmes. They have several aims:
- education around the illness of addiction;
- practical guidance on how to plan, undertake and follow up on an Intervention, and;
- education on how families may have been affected by addiction and how they can cope with it.
Al Anon and Nar Anon Fellowship Meetings
Good independent resources are the Al Anon and Nar Anon organisations. They hold meetings nationwide every day and week and you can find information on meetings in your locality, including the Rutland Centre, on their websites.
Fellowship Meetings for family and friends are held for people whose lives have been affected by drinking (Al Anon) or drugs (Nar Anon). We are dedicated to ensuring that we extend human and community recovery capital resources to families, communities and vicariously to individuals who are challenged by addiction to alcohol or drugs.
If you have any questions regarding recovery capital generally, any aspect of this article, helping yourself or a loved one break the cycle of addiction, don’t hesitate to get in touch.