top of page

Recovery Month: Beyond Knowing about Recovery

recovery month logo #nrm2023

It is September and, therefore, Recovery month.

20.9 million adults in the US have found recovery from a substance use problem

38.9 million adults in the US have found recovery from a mental health issue

1 in 3 adults experienced a substance use disorder or mental illness in the last year

How do we know these statistics? SAMSHA tells us this so we know it, accept it, read it, and possibly act on it.


How do we know so much about recovery?

Our research in the past two decades tells us this, so we know it, have seen it, experienced it, and believe it. Others know what we know because we published some of these findings in peer-reviewed journals. This is not all there is to know, but it’s a start.


Knowing what we know (epistemology) has been studied, pondered, published, debated, and theorized since the beginning of humanity. We know from the discipline and study of psychology there are five different methods of knowing: intuition, authority, rationalism, empiricism, and the scientific method. This is not a psychology class, and I have no issues with these methods of knowing… but I think they can be simplified.

  1. What do we know in our hearts?

  2. What do we know based on our experiences?

  3. What do we know based on our intuition?

  4. What do we know based on our observations?

We also know what we know from authorities. Authoritative knowing is about accepting the wisdom of doctors, authorities, and agencies like SAMHSA to tell us what to know about recovery.

Going Beyond Knowing About Recovery…

I know some of what I know because of teachings from the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Podcast, Turning to the Mystics with James Finley. In this podcast, Thomas Merton, one of my all-time favorite mystics, writes about the concept of prayer and knowing prayer. We do not need people to buy more books about prayer. We need people who pray. We can apply this knowing concept to recovery. We must go beyond knowing or celebrating recovery. We do not need more people to read books, write research, or even evaluate recovery. We need more people to live in recovery and reclaim their truest and most sacred selves. This knowing and living cannot be easily quantified with a scale or research paper.

When the heart is connected and grounded, we can reclaim our truest and most sacred selves.

Heart Knowing and Recovery

Experience and examples are some of the greatest teachers of heart-knowing. Here are three examples from the week of my heart knowing based on a spiritual level of knowing.

  • A colleague is suffering. A close family member and a best friend tragically passed away. He is enduring well because of his work at an intensive outpatient recovery center this summer. He will recover and heal from the heart, the inside out.

  • Our visual methods workshop with CRIHB in June 2023 was all about heart-knowing and recovery. I was visiting with a psychologist who attended this workshop. She talked about that time. It stuck with her. She created a piece of art, a visual story of her soul experience.

  • I was working on a research study with some students about the spiritual dimensions of our work, sharing that the goal in all of this is for our hearts to know other hearts to communicate with actions rather than words. To see the heart as the foundation of our work together is the knowing I am talking about when I refer to heart-knowing. If you asked me what I know about recovery, I would ask, “What kind of knowing?” Heart-knowing creates different definitions of recovery and connections at a deep spiritual level.

I know that when people tell me about recovery using statistics, research, and clinical definitions, it comes from a different kind of knowing. This knowing is not based on the heart. But, when people tell me about recovery using their personal stories, it touches a place in my spirit. It is where ego, self, authorities, or Western clinical narratives will never reach.

One of the major problems facing our work, world, and the concept of reclaiming what has been lost is that we tend to focus on one-dimensional factors. I am guilty of focusing on single dimensions of knowing, like in my book Treatment Program Evaluation, Public Health Perspectives on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.

Since this book, and my blog post in 2021 about recovery month, I have reclaimed some ways of knowing and being in the world.

- Physical health and balance

- Patience

- Balance

- Forgiveness

- Faith community and prayer

- Connection to the land

- Sobriety

- My thoughts, most of the time

- Perspective about what matters

- Acceptance of what is

What are your ways of knowing?



bottom of page