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Substance Use Recovery: Belonging vs. Being Included

Belonging and included in the recovery community

When we discuss recovery from substance use, we often discuss the importance of community, support, and connection. Two terms that frequently come up in these conversations are 'belonging' and 'inclusion.' While they might seem similar at first glance, they have distinct meanings, particularly in the context of recovery.

What is Belonging?

Belonging in the context of recovery implies a deep, emotional connection with other individuals who genuinely understand your journey. Feeling seen, heard, and valued for who you are, not just for your experiences with substance use, is what it's about. When you belong, you feel at peace with yourself and your past, and you feel confident in your ability to navigate your future.

Belonging is about authenticity. It's about showing up as your true self, without the fear of judgment or rejection. It's about celebrating your victories, acknowledging your setbacks, and sharing your fears and hopes with others who get it.

In a recovery community where you feel a sense of belonging, you can express your thoughts and feelings openly. You're encouraged to grow, change, and evolve at your own pace.

Belonging can be powerful in substance use recovery. It can foster a sense of connection and community, provide a support system, and create a safe environment in which to navigate the challenges of recovery. When individuals feel like they belong in a recovery community, they are more likely to feel understood and less alone in their journey. This feeling of belonging can also promote engagement in recovery activities and foster a sense of accountability and commitment to the recovery process.

How is Inclusion Different?

Inclusion, on the other hand, is more about the practices and policies in place that provide equal access and opportunities to everyone, regardless of their background or experiences. In an inclusive recovery community, you are welcomed, your voice is heard, and your unique needs are acknowledged and accommodated.

However, while inclusion is crucial, it doesn't automatically lead to a sense of belonging. You can be included in a group but still feel like an outsider. You can have a seat at the table but still feel like you don't fit in. And in the context of recovery, feeling like you don't belong can be incredibly isolating and detrimental to your progress.

Inclusion is the first step, the necessary foundation upon which belonging can be built. It's about making sure that everyone has access to the support, resources, and tools they need to succeed in their recovery journey. But it's only when these inclusive practices translate into a genuine sense of belonging that individuals can fully engage in their recovery process.

The Importance of Both In Recovery

In the world of substance use recovery, fostering both a sense of belonging and inclusivity is critical. It's not enough to simply invite individuals into recovery spaces. We need to ensure that these spaces are truly welcoming and accommodating, and that individuals feel a deep sense of connection and community. We need to recognize that every person's recovery journey is unique and that everyone should feel valued, heard, and seen.

When individuals feel like they belong in their recovery community, they are more likely to engage fully in the recovery process. They are more likely to reach out for support when they need it, more likely to share their experiences and insights, and more likely to stay committed to their recovery journey.

In contrast, when individuals don't feel like they belong, they may be less likely to engage in their recovery. They may feel isolated, misunderstood, or overlooked, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and can potentially hinder their progress.

The sense of belonging in the recovery journey should not be underestimated. It provides a secure base from which individuals can draw strength and reassurance. It nurtures a sense of self-worth, affirming that they are valued members of a community. This positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator in maintaining sobriety and pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

Inclusion, on the other hand, implies the active engagement and involvement of individuals in the recovery community. It facilitates the sharing of experiences and the formation of supportive networks. Moreover, it ensures that individuals' unique needs and perspectives are acknowledged and addressed, fostering an environment that is conducive to their recovery journey.

Ultimately, the combination of belonging and inclusion creates a powerful ecosystem that supports individuals' recovery. It instills a sense of hope, empowers individuals to take charge of their recovery, and provides a community that understands and supports their journey. It is a testament to the power of community and the human spirit in overcoming the challenges of substance use recovery.


Belonging and inclusion are both integral parts of the recovery journey. While they are distinct concepts, they are deeply interconnected, and each plays a crucial role in supporting individuals on their path to recovery. As we strive to support those in recovery, it's essential that we foster environments that not only include but also promote a profound sense of belonging.

About the Author High Desert Counseling

High Desert Counseling is an outpatient treatment center for substance abuse disorders. High Desert Counseling offers Day Treatment (PHP), Intensive Outpatient (IOP), and General Outpatient services in two convenient locations: St.George and Cedar City, Utah. You can reach us at 435-673-2899. If you or a loved one are looking for help in recovery from substance abuse, call today. To learn more, visit our website at https://highdesert.help

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