Brave Spotlights highlight important content that can have a positive impact on patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) and inspire dedicated healthcare professionals like you who provide support and treatment throughout the recovery journey.

SPOTLIGHT ON:SAMHSA’s Four Pillars of a Life in Recovery

Like opioid use disorder (OUD) itself, recovery is complex. There are many factors that can contribute to the recovery journey. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) worked with 2,000 people in the OUD community to determine four pillars that support a life in recovery: home, health, purpose, and community.

We asked two members of the recovery support community about the importance of these pillars. Justin Luke Riley, President & CEO of Young People in Recovery (YPR), and Pat Aussem, a licensed professional counselor whose son is in recovery, shared invaluable perspectives that are both inspiring and informative. One common theme was the need to take a holistic approach to recovery by looking at all the challenges someone with OUD faces during recovery, not just their opioid use.

It’s important to understand if it’s healthy for a person with OUD to go back to their home. That’s not always the case. If not, it means looking for alternative housing and brainstorming options: Is there a relative? Would they be better off sharing a place with a roommate? What about a sober living facility or recovery housing at a dormitory?–Pat

People don’t understand how something like playing on an intramural soccer team can help with recovery. It actually does quite a lot: It’s good for your health. It releases natural endorphins. It also establishes a community. For me, I was a long-distance runner pre-recovery. That was actually one healthy thing I was doing then that I can keep doing today. I started doing it at 14 years old. I’m still doing it now.–Justin

What are your goals? Let’s put a plan in place that is a movement toward wellness. Look at your interests, values, and skillset. Find out what you can do in the community to give back. Some people will want to volunteer at a recovery center. It can help with their own recovery, and it allows them to help other people, too.–Pat

Youth groups, community sports, places of worship, peer coach sponsors—many resources in the recovery lifestyle community are often actually free. The community is so naturally altruistic. People in long-term recovery generally would help anyone who calls them.–Justin

Substance use tends to be so isolating. The antidote to isolation is community.–Pat

Both Justin and Pat say it’s important for healthcare professionals to consider these four pillars and approach recovery holistically when working with people with OUD. They recommend that healthcare professionals ask people with OUD about these four pillars to help remind them that recovery is about looking at the big picture.

Inspired to take action now?

  1. Sign up to be notified when more features like this one go live on
  2. Read more about the four pillars and their importance in the recovery journey.
  3. Review the rest of the handbook created by SAMHSA as a decision support tool for people in recovery.