What is Recovery Awareness?

recovery mountaintio

The view is always the same no matter the path!


September is Recovery Awareness Month, and at Sanford Behavioral Health, recovery is a word we hear all the time. One of the tenets of our mission is to support and educate those who are in recovery, their families and communities, but what does recovery awareness mean? The dictionary defines recovery as a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. I have taken the liberty of editing the Oxford edition, as recovery and the concept of normalcy are both subjective. Especially when it comes to recovery from addiction, eating disorders, and mental health conditions.


Recovery is a lifestyle, not a destination. I have a family again: one that trusts and supports me. There are many pathways to recovery, and none are right or wrong. One of my elders told me there are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.

Jordan Higby, Sanford Behavioral Health, Admissions Specialist


Recovery Awareness Month


recovery definition

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA)


There is certainly a return to wellness in recovery, but there is also the potential for a better life than we had before. And so, improvement, growth, and enrichment are also integral to the definition. One thing I have learned after working for Sanford Behavioral Health for 6 1/2 years and talking to thousands of people in recovery and hundreds of therapists, is that everyone has a different path to addiction, eating disorders, and mental health conditions. A different story. And likewise, every individual has a unique recovery journey. That may seem simplistic, but it is important to remember. Because even the SAMSHA definition of recovery is subjective. My recovery will surely look different than your recovery, except that we are all more self-directed, and healthier.


Recovery is a journey shared with other alcoholics and addicts by which you live your way into better thinking, rather than trying to think your way into better living. It is the process of uplifting mind, body, and spirit. Recovery has helped me become a better version of myself, allowed me freedom and the gift of choice, and given me a blueprint for a better life.

Garrett Dunn, Group Facilitator/Credentialing Specialist, Sanford Behavioral Health



Four major dimensions that support a life in recovery (The Association for Addiction Professionals NAADAC.org)



The ability to manage one’s disease and improve overall health and wellness.


To me, recovery means freedom – from behaviors, from the crippling sense of powerlessness – and the freedom to live a full and meaningful life.  I believe recovery has been achieved when behaviors have been absent for a full year, when weight has been restored or normalized in a range healthy for that individual, and when the body has fully healed from the damage done by the eating disorder behaviors.

Gail Hall, LMSW, DCSW, CDES-S, Sanford Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders, Executive Director



Home means a safe and stable place to live. At Sanford, Residential Treatment provides structure and accountability 24/7 with 24-hour medical support. Supportive Housing is a safe and structured place to live while in Day Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP). Likewise, from the beginning of treatment our professionals help to integrate our patients back into their home environment. The signature Sanford Family Program educates the loved ones of our patients and provides long-term support.


safety team

Keeping things safe and comfortable – a bedroom in Sanford Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders



Meaningful and independant activities, such as school, work, child caretaking, volunteerism.


I have a quote from a Ted Talks on my wall above the desk in my office. It reminds me of how I need to think about my recovery every day. It says Practice Rigorous Authenticity, Surrender the Outcome, and Do Uncomfortable Work.

Polly McCaul, PhD, MA, LLPC, Lead Clinical Therapist, Sanford Behavioral Health



Relationships that promote and support recovery. From individual therapy to 12-step meetings to treatment and beyond, a rich support community is vital to a new life in recovery.


A few weeks ago, I had a patient tell me that she was very nervous to come to treatment. She said that once she was here, she found the staff to be compassionate, professional, knowledgeable, and happy. The word happy resonated with me, because it is my strong belief that as a behavioral healthcare organization, our workplace culture impacts our patient outcomes and their long-term recovery.

Katie Vokes, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Sanford Behavioral Health


Recovery Awareness Month – Every Person. Every Family. Every Community.

Why do we celebrate recovery awareness? Because addiction and mental health treatment enables those with substance use disorders or mental health conditions to restore and live healthy and fullfilling lives. National Recovery Month celebrates the efficacy of mental health treatment, and sends a positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, there is hope and help available, and recovery impacts every person, every family, and every community.



after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.