Addiction and Recovery Culture: The harsh reality of Addiction

Published On: 19th Aug 2020By 0 Comments

Addiction is a culture and a hash reality to live out of.

The word culture is derived from the Latin ‘Colere’ and translates to:

Definition of the word culture
Breakdown of the meaning of culture

A Culture is a way of life and dictates how we experience life. Therefore we can say, we live in culture and we act out of culture. In my experience, I know of people who are ‘clean’ (no longer use substances) yet still live out of a culture of addiction. They therefore remain trapped in endless cycles of relapse. For years I was a person who had one foot in a recovery culture and another in an addiction culture. Because of this, my continuous relapses led to many near death experiences.      

It’s important to note that shifting from substance abuse to sobriety (stopping using) does not automatically place one within a culture of recovery. The definition of culture indicates that living in a culture requires cultivation (continuous action). We must till the ground (an action of continuously ensuring that our foundations of recovery are fertile for planting recovery seeds).

In my experience I recognised the following lifestyle choices of the two cultures

Addiction and Recovery Culture
Behavior expectations of the two cultures


Recovery Culture Shock:

When people first enter recovery there is a high danger of relapse. This could be due to the shifting from one culture to the other. It’s common to hear people in early recovery speak of loneliness. There is a real fear that recovery marks an end to one’s social life. I refer to this as ‘recovery culture shock’.

In early recovery we are still in the initial phase of cultivating a new culture. This is where the hard work of tilling the ground and planting recovery seeds comes in. It can be a lonely process. Therefore it’s important to experience a recovery community who can offer support. Don’t lose sight that, despite the pains of active addiction, you are leaving what you’ve always known. You are shifting your lifestyle and mindset towards something foreign. It is natural for some to experience a shock to their system (way of being) and to feel vulnerable. I found that it was within this process where I experienced relapse.  

We must remain focused on the outcomes of this phase and allow ourselves to not focus on the immediate. Pushing through is commonly termed ‘fake it until you make it’. You will also hear the term, ‘don’t give up before the miracle happens’. We must pass through this initial stage and sow new seeds to experience the offerings of the culture of recovery. Also commonly referred to as the gifts of recovery. However, it doesn’t end there. Remember we live in and out of culture and, as discussed, culture is a process of continuous cultivation. In recovery, it can lose sight of the realities of living out of a culture of addiction. This is referred to as being complacent*.

Recovery is not a once off experience.

It really isn’t! Ask anybody who has experienced relapse and they will attest to this. Our Recovery is a process of cultivation and, like a garden, we must maintained it. In recovery we are offered a life we never dreamed possible. Remind yourself that seeding into this culture is not only a requirement but a gift. It’s a gift that allows us to continue living in the miracle that we so desperately prayed for.

Review the tables below and remind yourself of the miracle that the recovery culture offers. We choose to live out of it daily.

*Complacency: is an ambivalent attitude to recovery. A person may not feel they need to put much effort into their sobriety. Often referred to as having an attitude of, ‘I’ve got this’.

Write your experience using the following words as a guide. Allow them to remind you of the reality of living out of each culture:

Addiction Culture
Experiences of an Addiction Culture
Recovery Culture
Experiences of a Recovery Culture

Richard is an ICF qualified Ontological Coach and offers private sessions. To book a 1:1 coaching session with Richard contact him on

Subscribe here to receive more blog posts by Richard


Coming Soon:

An interactive series based on ‘The Seasons of Addiction’ click here to download a copy Participants will be led through a series of interactive workshops, and new conversations to explore their personal path of addiction and recovery and uncover new insights and a fresh understanding of their journey. Contact Richard for more information.     

For immediate drug related assistance: see link for a list of S.A hotline contact numbers

Leave A Comment

Sign up to receive my blog posts.

Recent Posts