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Recovery Capital: What It Is and How To Spend It

recovery capital

Recovery Capital: What It Is and How To Spend It

Recovery Capital is a lot like any other form of capital — most folks have at least a little and some folks have a whole lot. How much you may actually need however is a largely personal matter. It depends upon your habit. It depends upon your past. And yes, it even depends upon your location. Because what and how much can be just as important as where.

Of course the what and the where aren’t the only factors determining how much recovery capital you’ll need to get clean. They aren’t the only factors to consider regarding you staying clean either. There are also physiological and psychological factors at play. And those can range from age to tribe. Heck, the music you listen to may even be a determinant. Same goes for the art you appreciate or the teams you follow.

None of that matters though unless you’ve got a clear idea of the concept. In other words, there are questions that need to be answered before proceeding. Like for instance, just what is recovery capital? Where did it come from? Why is it important? And how exactly is it assessed? Well, we hear you. And we’re here for you too. With answers. So without further ado, we give you the lowdown on recovery capital.

What is Recovery Capital?

The concept of recovery capital was introduced by Robert Granfield and William Cloud in their book Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction Without Treatment (NYU Press 1999). As the title makes clear, there are some addicts and alcoholics who manage to get clean without the benefit of professional help, extensive or otherwise. They simply stop drinking and drugging. And these folks are able to stop drinking and drugging because they’ve got the necessary resources. That’s right. They’ve got recovery capital. It’s the recovery equivalent of having enough money in the bank to cover your car breaking down. Only in this case it’s you that’s ended-up on the side of the road.

Sounds good, no? Indeed. Maybe even too good. Sure some people have kicked the proverbial habit without resorting to rehab. But such people are few and far between. In fact, they’re too few and very far between. And where did they get all this mysterious recovery capital anyway? Was it inherited? Did they win it? Accrued it in an IRA? More importantly, what is it and how can we get more?

Considering addiction is a chronic disease, I’m not so sure relying upon wit and inner will makes for a sensible treatment plan, regardless of how resourceful you may be. I mean, people have also overcome cancer via faith healers. Yet I still wouldn’t recommend running out and ditching your doctor in lieu of the local guru. I don’t care how much cancer capital you’ve got squirreled away.

To be fair though, recovery capital is unquestionably an invaluable assessment method. After all, anything that provides a more thorough and comprehensive picture of the patient has got to be helpful. Even better to include less traditional factors such as environment and tribe. Like they say, forewarned is forearmed. Especially extensively.

Capital Links & Equations

Granfield and Cloud “define recovery capital as the volume of internal and external assets that can be brought to bear to initiate and sustain recovery.” They equate capital more with capacity than currency, though both analogues seem to work equally well. Where I said assessor though, they say predictor. Yet here too, all things are equal. With assessment comes prediction. Determining what you’ve got will certainly help determine what you’ll get.

Speaking of get, let us now turn to ace addiction expert William White. White’s part of the duly-revered Recovery Research Institute. You know, the good folks behind the super groovy Addictionary. He also occasionally collaborates with Professor Cloud. In fact, the two paired on a Recovery Capital Primer. No foolin.’ In that Primer, the tag-team conceptually link recovery capital to a slew of addiction treatment components, including natural recovery, solution-focused therapy and strengths-based case management. They also link it to the ideas of hardiness, wellness, and global health.

Capital Factors

The good professors go on to cite four types of recovery capital — personal, family/social, community and cultural. Here’s how they break it all down.

  • Personal Recovery Capital: Physical & Human
  • Physical: physical health, financial assets, health insurance, safe and recovery-conducive shelter, clothing, food, access to transportation
    Human: values, knowledge, educational/vocational skills and credentials, problem solving capacities, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-efficacy, hopefulness/optimism, perception of one’s past/present/future, sense of meaning and purpose in life, and interpersonal skills.

  • Family/Social Recovery Capital
  • Intimate relationships, family and kinship relationships (i.e. family of choice), and recovery support relationships. Family/social recovery capital is indicated by the willingness of intimate partners and family members to participate in treatment, the presence of others in recovery within the family and social network, access to a sober community, and relational connections to conventional institutions (school, workplace, church, and other mainstream community organizations).

  • Community Recovery Capital
  • Active efforts to reduce addiction/recovery-related stigma, visible and diverse local recovery role models, a full continuum of addiction treatment resources, easily accessible and diverse recovery mutual aid resources, local recovery community support institutions (recovery centers/clubhouses, treatment alumni associations, recovery homes, recovery schools, recovery industries, recovery ministries/churches), and sources of sustained recovery support and early re-intervention (e.g.,
    recovery checkups through treatment programs, employee assistance programs, professional assistance programs, drug courts, or recovery community organizations).

  • Cultural Recovery Capital
  • Cultural capital constitutes the local availability of culturally-prescribed pathways of recovery that resonate with particular individuals and families. Examples of such potential resonance include Native Americans recovering through the “Indianization of AA” or the “Red Road,” or African Americans recovering within a faith-based recovery ministry or within an Afrocentric therapeutic orientation.

    Healing Properties’ Position

    Healing Properties would stand on the corner and applaud the work of William White and the Recovery Research Institute each and every day of the year if it would help more folks become aware of their great good work. Meantime please consider these occasional shout-outs us doing just that. We’re also more than happy to add Professor Granfield and Professor Cloud to our wall of recovery heroes. Too few folks are out there expanding our collective horizons. And we’re overjoyed whenever we come across more confederates.

    Furthermore while we may have doubts about recovery capital working as a standalone addiction treatment plan, we also don’t for a second believe the authors are advocating for such a thing. Coming Clean merely cited instances of people who’ve succeeded outside the realm of the standard protocol. There’s nothing wrong with that. Heck, if anything, the expansion should be encouraged. So too should anything that constitutes an ever deeper dive into addiction treatment. The more we learn, the greater the chance we’ll one day know our way out of the problem. And we’re all for the great eventual know.

    Besides, addiction treatment is built right into the Primer itself. We know they know the value of structured recovery. We know they know the inherent hazards too. In fact, White, Cloud and Granfield have devoted their entire careers to establishing what does and doesn’t work. And we’re double-plus grateful for each and every study, assessment and recommendation. That definitely includes recovery capital. It’s crucial for everyone to know their inner resources. It’s just as crucial for everyone to know what resources they need to succeed. This concept perfectly applies to both.

    Please Pick Up the Phone

    How about you? What’s in your recovery wallet? Are you packing strength and fortitude? Or are you saddled with doubt? Are you in a good place? Spiritually and geographically? How ’bout physically and mentally? And do you have strong, solid support? Family, friend or otherwise? These factors and others determine the extent of your recovery capital. They also just may determine how your recovery will play out. So please, pick up the phone and call someone. You won’t regret it.

    (Recovery Capital graph courtesy the great good folks at the Recovery Research Institute — with great gratitude.)

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