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Discover Your Path

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Multiple Pathways to Recovery

The Multiple Pathways to Recovery are designed for individuals, families, friends and the community who are seeking information by outlining and describing different pathways of recovery and demonstrating the diversity of recovery.

Multiple Pathways of Recovery are defined as those practices, programs, rituals, and customs people use to maintain and sustain recovery. In comparison pathways to recovery can range from crisis events like treatment, experience within the criminal justice system, or a personal epiphany.


Types of Recovery Paths

  • Natural Recovery – Recovery happens naturally all the time. For many people with Substance Use Disorders, remission and recovery is a process that happens naturally and over time. In fact, such individuals may never have thought of themselves as having an addiction at all, much less being in recovery-even though by all medical classifications they would have qualified as having an addiction to a substance.

  • Mutual Support/Mutual Aid – Often called ‘self-help’ groups or ‘support’ groups, these groups are small scale community-oriented groups where people suffering from Substance Use Disorders meet and provide support to each other. These groups provide a safe space for people to share stores, talk about challenges, or share personal achievements often when an overarching framework guiding the group purpose. Mutual Support Groups are often an initial destination for people hoping to find recovery, and also serve to help people maintain long-term recovery. Most mutual aid groups meet face to face, but there are web-based groups as well.

  • Online/Digital Recovery Supports – Online recovery meetings can help you keep in touch with your support group so you can safely connect and work together.

  • Peer Based Recovery Supports – Peer-based recovery support services are a common and often effective means by which individuals have found and sustained long-term recovery. The services are provided by individuals who have suffered from a substance use disorder and then found and sustained long-term recovery.

  • Family Recovery Supports – Families affect and are influenced by the recovery experiences of children, youth, and adults with mental or Substance Use Disorders. As caregivers, navigators, and allies, family members play diverse roles and may require a variety of supports. Family members play diverse roles and may require a variety of supports other families-sharing lived experiences and insights that instill hope, increase understanding, and contribute to systems transformation.


Multiple Pathways: A History

Most people who define themselves as being “in recovery” have experience with 12-step-oriented mutual aid groups such as AA and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), but many others enter recovery through professional treatment services, non-12-step mutual aid groups, or other routes of support, such as family, friends, or faith-based organizations.

The diversity in pathways to recovery has sometimes provoked debate about the value of some pathways over others. For example, people who achieve recovery with the support of medications (e.g., methadone, buprenorphine, disulfiram, acamprosate, naltrexone, or even antidepressants) have sometimes been denounced by those who do not take medications, based on assumptions that using medication is inconsistent with recovery principles or a form of drug substitutions or replacement. Nonetheless, members of the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery or Methadone Anonymous refer to themselves as practicing medication-assisted recovery.

Finally, some people who have had severe substance use disorders in the past but no longer meet criteria for a substance use disorder do not think of themselves as operating from a recovery perspective or consider themselves part of a recovery movement, even if they endorse some or all of the beliefs and values associated with recovery.

There is many paths of recovery. People will choose their pathway based on their cultural values, their socioeconomic status, their psychological and behavioral needs and the nature of their substance use disorder.

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