New Messaging From Faces & Voices of Recovery for Talking About Recovery

Faces & Voices of Recovery (FAVOR) is a national campaign of individuals and organizations joining together with a united voice to advocate for public action to deliver the power, possibility and proof of recovery from substance use disorders. FAVOR has developed a language that social workers and others can use to talk with the public and policymakers about recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. 

This messaging is a result of in-depth public opinion research with members of the recovery community and the general public. FAVOR encourages us to use this messaging language in any recovery advocacy work, whether speaking as a professional, a person in recovery, a family member or a friend.

Why Speak About Recovery with One Voice?

Over the last two years, FAVOR has been seeking a way to describe and talk about recovery so that people who are not part of the recovery community understand what is meant in the addictions field by the word “recovery.” 

One of the important findings from the groundbreaking 2004 survey of the general public was that people believe that the word “recovery” means that someone is trying to stop using alcohol or other drugs. The realization was that a way is needed to talk about recovery that will allow us all to be clear and believable when describing it to move our advocacy agenda forward. 

There are some important things learned from the research about how to talk with people about recovery:

  1. Make it personal, however possible, so that it has credibility.
  2. Keep it simple and in the present tense, so that it is real and understandable.
  3. Help people understand that recovery means that you or the person you care about is no longer using alcohol or other drugs. We can do this by moving away from saying “in recovery” to saying “in long-term recovery,” talking about stability, and mentioning the length of time that a person has been in recovery.
  4. Talk about a person’s recovery…not their addiction.
  5. Help people understand that there’s more to recovery than not using alcohol or other drugs, but that recovery is about creating a better life.

Messaging or Language for a Person in Recovery

I’m (your name) and I am in long-term recovery, which means that I have not used (insert alcohol or drugs or the name of the drugs that you used) for more than (insert the number of years that you are in recovery) years. I am committed to recovery because it has given me and my family new purpose and hope for the future, while helping me gain stability in my life. I am now speaking out because long-term recovery has helped me change my life for the better, and I want to make it possible for others to do the same.

Messaging or Language for a Family Member or Friend of a Person in Recovery

I’m (your name). My (insert client, son, daughter, mom, dad, friend) is in long-term recovery, which means that (insert he/she) has not used (insert alcohol or drugs or the name of the drugs that he or she used) for more than (insert the number of years) years. I am committed to recovery because it has given everyone who cares about (insert him/her) new purpose and hope for the future. I am speaking out because long-term recovery helps change lives for the better, and I want to make it possible for more people.

What’s Not in the Message and Why

“I’m a recovering addict (alcoholic).”
When people hear the words addict or alcoholic, it reinforces the idea of a revolving door—-that you or the person you support is still struggling with active addiction.

Information about particular pathways to recovery.
The message does not mention a particular pathway to recovery, addressing concerns that people in 12-step or other programs may have about anonymity.

A definition of recovery.
This message describes recovery, so that the person or audience you are addressing understands:

  1. what recovery means;
  2. that you or a person you are referencing is in long-term recovery, and:
  3. that others should have the opportunity to recover as well.

“Addiction is a disease.” “Addiction is a health problem.”
From research experience, it was found that many people believe addiction is a moral issue, not a health problem. Even when someone says that they believe it is a health problem, because of their personal experiences and/or prejudices, it is difficult for many Americans to truly believe that addiction is a disease or a health problem.

FAVOR has side-stepped engaging in a discussion about whether or not addiction is a health issue and has gone straight to their message: Real people are in long-term recovery from addiction, and their lives and the lives of their families are better as a result. That is why we need to make it possible for even more people to get the help they need, and once they are in recovery, remove barriers that keep them from long-term recovery.

How and Where to Use This Message

FAVOR hopes that you will use this message in all of your advocacy work. “Staying on message” means using the same message repeatedly until it becomes part of our common understanding. A unified message from the entire recovery community is needed. This basic message will help maintain focus and continuity as it gets integrated into everything that we do. In the future, when there’s greater public understanding of recovery, we will be able to change the basic message. Potential opportunities to use these messages include:

  • With the media on all levels
  • In coalition meetings
  • With supporters
  • In meetings with legislators
  • In strategy materials you develop

In short, any time you write or speak about recovery, publicly or privately, remember to use these messages.