Rights for Recovery

By: Robert D. Ashford

#RightsForRecovery is all about providing real-time information on important issues surrounding recovery, advocacy and social justice issues. We can inspire social change, one voice at a time. 

Born in north Texas and raised in northeastern Pennsylvania, Robert Ashford is a certified peer recovery support specialist and an advocate for all individuals seeking long-term recovery. Ashford most recently served as the national program director for Young People in Recovery and as the founding program director of the University of North Texas Collegiate Recovery Program. Ashford is currently finishing a bachelor of social work and bachelor of science in psychology from the University of North Texas and will be pursuing a master of social work from the University of Pennsylvania beginning in the summer of 2016. Ashford has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, most notably NADAAC’s Young Emerging Leader Award (2014), Young People in Recovery’s Advocate of the Year (2014), and the University of North Founders’ Award (2015). Ashford also serves on multiple nonprofit organizations’ board of directors, the Council for Advising and Planning for the Texas Department of State Health Services, and is a current national planning partner for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. More about Ashford can be found at his website.

Rituals in Recovery

Apr 16, 2016


Those of us that live life in recovery from substance use disorders, mental health concerns or other behavioral health disorders know full well the value that daily rituals provide us in our journey for wellness. Whether you call them a design for living, self-care or a daily routine, these habits often keep us on the straight and narrow path to happiness.

Mutual-aid program participants (think 12-step programs, SMART recovery, etc.) often have very strict regimens of daily rituals. I myself find time for these, as it provides a sense of calm and serenity over the course of the day. A typical day may start with a dose of meditation and prayer, continue with self-reflection and a mid-day personal inventory (being aware of our actions, feelings and reactions), and end with a verbal account of that full-day personal inventory with another person in recovery and taking action where we must.

For those participating in other forms of recovery philosophies (or pathways), these daily rituals oftentimes take the name of self-care. These include things such as meditation and mindfulness throughout the day, nutritious eating (including breakfast!), regular therapy and counseling sessions (some of the healthiest people I know have been in therapy for years — just saying), or finding time to decompress and process the day without distractions.

Now  it sounds like these rituals are ironically very similar, perhaps just labeled different things? From a member of a mutual-aid recovery program, working a different type of program can oftentimes be a very taboo thing. For members of the general public who do not consider themselves in recovery, any type of recovery program is often taboo as well. The reality, though, is regardless of our recovery status and regardless of the way that we work to thrive in that recovery, we are all pretty similar. I would challenge all of you to think about the daily rituals in which you engage. These activities aren’t specific to you, one program or recovery. As humans, we find ways to cope. For some, these things are positive, and for others they are negative.

We are bombarded on a recurring basis on how so very different we are from one another — when oftentimes we really need to be reminded of how similar we exist. Just as I practice a new way of living, focused on being a decent person and being aware of my actions and their impact, so do most people we would consider good human beings. My path, and most paths of those in recovery, may have flowed to that way of living by a different road, but being there is what matters. Recovery status and the way that recovery is maintained isn’t a reason for xenophobia amongst those in the recovery community or those outside of it.  We are all much more similar than we care to admit, and it is time we embraced that.

At the end of the day, being in recovery or being normal is really the exact same thing. We are finding positive ways to live a life that is full of happiness and meaning. Our daily rituals don’t set us apart; they bring us closer together.

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