Seven traits needed to recover

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Nobody skips happily into recovery. Most people feel totally beaten, terrified or with no self-esteem – and most often with all of these.

So it’s rare for anybody new to recovery to think they have all of the traits needed to recover or even to have any of these. Their mental health illness has usually worn them down this much.

But they always do have these characteristics.

These essential qualities are there inside everyone, although they may have been pushed far down. 

That’s why virtually everyone who comes into recovery will need encouragement to believe – from someone such as a therapist who knows what they need to do to get and stay well.

Then after finding them, they grow as the person gets increasingly better. In fact, finding these qualities is a major part of the amazing journey of recovery.

What are the essential qualities for recovery?


It’s no coincidence that Step One of the Twelve Steps recovery program, which was started more than 80 years ago by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), starts with the words: “We admitted…”

Without first getting honest and admitting that there is an actual problem, nobody will be able to move into the solution. This is whether it’s from alcoholism or another addiction including behavioral addiction or any of the types of mental health problems.

No more denial. Honesty has to come first – including admitting the real extent of the problem.


It certainly takes courage to admit there is a problem. Without it and finding the courage to change, nothing will change.

The word “courage” derives from Latin cor  meaning “heart”. So it’s here that people have to look, to their heart and their soul too.

This means often not thinking too much about their thinking – and getting instead deeply in tune with their feelings.


Being humble is vital in recovery. Humiliation of how life is due to such as an alcohol addiction or relationship and work problems is often what’s needed to find such humility.

But humility is completely different to humiliation. As author CS Lewis said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”


Having humility means you are ready to listen to suggested solutions that you may never have thought of yourself. Some of these could even be ideas or things to do that you don’t like the sound of or just don’t think could possibly work. 

This is why humility is essential. And open-mindedness too. 

For instance, AA’s Twelve Steps program offers a spiritual solution. At this many have balked.

For those who are open-minded – including a huge percentage of people who describe themselves as atheists – they have found recovery.

The founders of AA knew this was the case and wrote in the AA “Big Book”, one of the bestselling recovery books ever: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

Sometimes it’s doing the opposite of what someone’s done for many years that will get them well. This is why open-mindedness is such another essential recovery quality.


Those people who get the most swift recovery are those who really want it. That means they have a burning desire to get well.

They are totally sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. They see people in recovery and hear from experts and they truly want what’s on offer.

It is why reaching rock bottom is seen as the “gift of desperation” that’s often needed. And why breaking down can be seen as waking up.

When our backs are against the wall and there’s nowhere else to go, it often gives us the greatest desire.


This quality is needed from day one as it means you will keep doing what is suggested. It means you will get up in time for the daily one-on-one therapy sessions or you will get to the Twelve Steps meeting on time.

It means if it’s suggested to you that meditation for 30 minutes first thing every morning is what will help – that you meditate for 30 minutes first thing every morning.

Of course, if addiction of some sort is the problem, then it means you have to stay away from whatever it was that took hold of you. That can mean being self-disciplined enough to avoid certain toxic people, places and things.

Some people prickle at the word “discipline”, especially if they’ve come from a strict background at home and/or school. But it derives from Latin disciplina meaning “instruction, knowledge”.

So being self-disciplined in recovery means you are simply continuing to learn and gain knowledge. You are growing.


When recovery is underway you need to maintain it. You need to keep doing whatever it is that is working.

This means through thick and thin, in sickness and in health.

It means you are dedicated to your recovery when life throws something harsh your way; and it also means you stay dedicated when you are flying along and everything round you is going wonderfully well.

You keep at it, no matter what.

Just as with someone out of shape who gets in shape from training at the gym five times a week for six months – but then who stops going and then starts to drift back to the poor condition they were in before they started training… so it is with our mental, emotional and spiritual fitness.

Our expert team at Tikvah Lake has decades of experience in treating all emotional and mental health problems. We offer successful proven treatments.

We’re fortunate to be in the most beautiful natural setting to enhance wellbeing. Right next to a stunning tranquil lake, our luxury mansion is made with your utter relaxation in mind.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you or someone you love.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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