Jan Brown Explains What Recovery Looks Like

What's the difference between sobriety and recovery? Hear one woman's experience.

When I was working at this treatment center where I was, I began to get frustrated because people would be there and they would spend money and they would do quite well and then they would leave and then they would relapse. And I didn't get that because that wasn't my experience, as well, and I've certainly watched it happen through the years. What I finally started discovering is that there's a difference between being sober and actually living in recovery. When I first got clean, I decided--it was like, well, what is my prize? I needed something to be willing to continue to do this for. So I decided that recovery, for me, meant getting back what I had loved and lost. So that was going to be my goal, and that not drinking or not doing drugs was simply a part of that and it was important. So it's certainly a critical ingredient; however, it's not enough to really sustain life and to make people happy. I can remember when I wasn't working and I had had my second injury, how much of a challenge it was for me to connect, really, to either community, be it the brain injury community or the addiction and recovery community. I would go to meetings and I would be in fellowship with other friends in the primary addiction recovery community and I was watching them get back things that they loved and lost, but I had no job, I had no ability to drive, so I started thinking, "Okay, this isn't so great." And then I would go to my brain injury community friends, and they would tell me that it was okay to just have your brain injury. And they would help me make excuses for not trying to really recover. So it became a big challenge, and it allowed me to use it as kind of a crutch or as an excuse. It was several years ago when I was able to say I needed to be really in recovery for both of these things. I was at a meeting one day, a brain injury community meeting of some sort, and this gentleman introduced himself as a person in recovery from brain injury. I thought, "Well, that's kind of interesting." And then he talked about how it was just kind of like an episode--that this was an experience that he had had in his life and that it no longer had to shape and be who he was. I was like, I wanted that. I said, "I want to be like that." I want this to be an event that happened. Certainly I have challenges as a result of that, but I can put it in a different perspective. So when I think of my addiction, I think that kind of the beginning is that spiritual sobriety, is getting sober, and when I think of being in brain injury recovery, that the event and my survival of the two experiences and then the rest of my life is really about living and recovery.
Posted on BrainLine August 5, 2009.