People want to know. We get this question a lot at Greener Pastures Recovery, where we espouse plant-assisted therapy (PAT) as not only a harm-reduction, but as a mindfulness-enhancing and reparative approach to addiction recovery. What are the tell-tale signs that a loved one is truly in recovery? "How do I know if she's really in recovery or just in a good mood for today?" Trust shattered by the fallout of active substance use takes time to rebuild so friends and family are realistically dubious, cautiously optimistic, or sometimes downright skeptical. Some want some form of concrete proof that recovery is in full swing before they dare to hope or have faith that their loved one might really be OK, after all. We believe a person is in recovery when they declare themselves to be and when they are putting thought and intention into their recovery journey. It sounds simple enough, but this shift is monumental, courageous and life-changing. Realistically, there is no one sign of "proof" that a person is in recovery; a person using sheer will-power to abstain from substance use may be "sober" and still not in recovery (and likely headed for disaster,) whereas another person's mindful and intentional use of plant-based medicines may disqualify them from the sober category, yet they live a full-blown life of recovery with healthy boundaries, stable living environment, enriching relationships and satisfying work that sustains them. Sobriety is not recovery. Abstinence is not recovery. Recovery can be sober and abstinent. Recovery can be harm-reduction. Recovery is less about your substance use and more about the substance of your life. One thing that everyone is absolutely sure about is that the worsening opioid epidemic is an erupting volcano with an astronomical death toll and we're all in the path of the lava. While politicians fight over money and power, more concerned with donor dollars than the deaths of young voters, pharmaceutical companies keep pumping out more fast-tracked poison, nearly unchecked, and treatment providers struggle to find treatment dollars and support. In the face of so much trauma, despair and death, Greener Pastures offers a ray of hope and promise: non-toxic, non-lethal medicinal plants are essential nutrients. The mindful and intentional use of plants eases opiate withdrawal, repairs damaged and imbalanced body systems and brains, facilitates mindfulness and offers a relapse-prevention strategy. These benefits empower a person's recovery journey and offer a safe foundation upon which to do the hard work of building a life of long-term recovery. PAT is not a cure for addiction; there is no known cure for addiction. We have an inkling that the cure involves love, community and deep connection, but we won't be able to prove it until we eradicate stigma and shame and greed; we'll let you know when we get there.
But, PAT is a great start on the path to lasting recovery and at Greener Pastures, we are very optimistic. At least one government agency, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) seems to get it, and we refer to their working definition of "recovery" often as we educate clients and their loved ones. Read it for yourself, and then do your part to end stigma by sharing the information with others. You may just save a life.