EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is first in a series on "Recovery" and is being written as an observance of National Recovery Month.

The word recovery is a fairly common. Some people may use it or a derivative of it every day. Most people hear the word at least as often.

But its definition is tricky. What does recovery mean, really?

“The best definition of what recovery is, is to explain what it's not,” said Tammie McKelvy, a licensed professional counselor at Center for Life Resources, who also has a private practice in Comanche.

“Recovery is not a cure, and that's a common misunderstanding of the word,” McKelvy said. “When we talk about recovery, we're really talking about rebuilding, regaining. Recovery is a process. It's not an event.

“What I tell people I work with is that recovery is a journey, and it's a lifelong journey.”

And, recovery is a journey many people will travel in one way or another. People affected by addiction, afflicted by a physical disease or who have suffered an injury and those who have lost a loved one and are anchored by grief all need to progress through a recovery process.

“In counseling someone through a recovery process, we take a very holistic approach,” McKelvy said. “Successful recovery involves the body, mind, spirit and that recoverer's relations in the community and family.

“A problem is a problem and if it's interfering with someone's functioning in life, then it's got to be dealt with,” McKelvy said.

The first step of any recovery is the acknowledgement that one needs to make a change, and change what he or she is doing in order to achieve a different result.

“The individual must get to a point where they want something to be different, better and sometimes they may not know what that something is, that is how the process of recovery begins,” McKelvy said.

The second necessary step is to seek the necessary help to make that change.

“The people who get help are the people who seek help,” McKelvy said. “That help can be through a pastor, through peer support group, a counselor – it can come in many different ways.”

The third step in recovery is to visualize the change, McKelvy said, which is difficult for some people because they may be in despair, overwhelmed and unable to see beyond where they are right then in their pain or suffering.

“Once we visualize how we would like to change, though, we can make the commitment to how we would like to change.”

Finally, McKelvy said, “we need to celebrate the progress we make in our recovery.”

While McKelvy hesitates to say it is common, she does acknowledge that in almost every recovery process, there is a time of falter, the “one step forward, two steps back, so to speak.”

The two steps back doesn't have to mean failure if it can be used as a learning opportunity, she said.

“That's why we have to celebrate doing well, acknowledge success, so in the 'two steps back' we know what to avoid in the future.”

People have different lives, different experiences and are at different levels, and that pretty well means no two recoveries are going to be alike, which, McKelvy said, “doesn't mean one path is right and another is wrong.”

As a professional counselor trying to help a recoverer, McKelvy said, her job is not to give the answers, but to shed some light and give tools to help the individuals find their own recovery paths and answers.

“The clinical definition of recovery?” McKelvy asked rhetorically.

“Recovery is the process of change through which an individual improves their health and wellness to live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential.

“Self direction is learning to make decisions for yourself. You're responsible for the decisions that you make.”