Recovery is a hotly debated topic in the world of addictions. Basically, recovery is a term used by most people to mean achieving a state of abstinence from the substance you were previously addicted to. However, some in the field argue that recovery could also be achieving a state where the harm from your substance is controlled, and you are able to live a rewarding and fulfilling life. This is often referred to as harm reduction.
Definitions aside, there is more debate. Is abstinence necessarily the best goal for everybody who is in the grip of an addiction, and if so, is it always achievable?
The debate was brought into sharp focus for me when I was making the Constant Cravings documentary for Radio 4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s4g7v which is about whether food can be addictive or not. If it is, how do you abstain from eating? Yet those in Overeaters Anonymous talk of abstinence, and define their own abstinence with strict boundaries. For some it means 3 healthy meals a day, no more, no less. For others it means following a food plan someone else has drawn up, and never deviating from that. It may not be possible to abstain from eating, but it is possible to abstain from overeating.
Maybe this is yet another of those weird both/and situation we find so often in addiction. Abstinence in the case of food seems also to fall under the label of harm reduction, which makes the either/or debate redundant. From a philosophical perspective, is there something addictions could learn from this?