Why recovery has to always come first

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo


Sometimes you hear people in recovery speak about how it is necessary to be selfish for them to get and stay well. However, this is an easily understandable confusion about recovery.

It is because recovery does have to come first. That means not putting anything before it, with the exception of such as an important medical appointment or something to do with caring for children.

It’s always worth remembering that recovery can be a life and death matter. Death rates from such as alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide following depression have all been increasing for a few decades now.

What comes before recovery will be lost anyway

So recovery has to come above work, family time, socializing and any hobbies. There’s an often used phrase in recovery circles that whatever you put above your recovery you will lose in time anyway.

So that means if, for instance, someone continues with an addiction or struggling with anxiety, stress or depression these all most often get progressively worse. Then they may lose or not be able to do their work,  and the same for socializing and hobbies.

Many people who are suffering from a mental health issue also find that they end up isolating, away from their family. Or their partner finally has enough and tells them to leave or move out themselves, taking the children with them.

Sometimes grown-up children reach their breaking point. Any contact whatsoever can be cut off, and this can last for years and even a lifetime.

Recovery works if you work it

It is then essential that recovery is at the top of the priority list. Many people have discovered that if they think and act with this in mind that all the other problems they had – from financial and work to relationships and physical health – will get sorted out too.

This might not be overnight, but it will happen if someone is disciplined with their recovery. For a great many people, while it’s not instant, it is a fact that everything falls into place much more swiftly than they ever could have imagined.

But time spent at a recovery center, therapy sessions and Twelve Steps meetings must not be missed. If therapy written work or anything practical that will help is suggested, it needs to be done.

Self-centeredness is the root of our troubles

So this is where the understandable confusion arises. People learn that recovery has to come above all. It has to if it is to work.

Some people understandably mistake this for meaning they have to be selfish about it. But it is important to know that successful recovery is anything but being selfish.

There is a passage in the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book” that says: “Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles… Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!”

It is talking about alcoholism. But it can be applied to any addiction, including a behavioral addiction.

As well, it can be taken into account around some mental health conditions where people are so consumed with their disorder that it’s all they think about. They are powerless over it.


For instance, while they do not mean to, it is that their depression, stress or anxiety stops them living as fully as they used to or can. It so often stops people who are suffering like this from fulfilling their role as a parent, friend, colleague or member of their community.

Their necessity to survive and cope with it can mean they become increasingly inward looking. Sometimes the world around them feels far and distant – and there is an increasing feeling of being disconnected from other people.

Recovery benefits everybody

For people in recovery it is a great incentive for them to realize that not only are they doing it for themselves of course – but also for everyone around them. This is what they will experience as they get well and then grow in their recovery.

People who give 100 percent to their recovery will see their work prosper, enjoyable socializing come back into their life, hobbies and pastimes that became neglected or impossible start to flourish again.


Perhaps most importantly of all, family life improves. Partnerships grow closer once again and estranged children will often return – and those relationships can blossom to a much better place than where they were left.

Our expert team at Tikvah Lake has many years of experience in treating all emotional and mental health issues. We offer several successful proven treatments that are all completely personalized for everyone who stays with us at our family-run recovery center.

We’re lucky to be in the most beautiful natural setting to enhance wellbeing. With a stunning tranquil lake lapping up to our gardens, our luxury mansion is made with your relaxation and recovery uppermost in mind.

Contact us today to hear 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.

Reader Interactions

Leave a comment