People, places, things and recovery

Published 8:04 pm Wednesday, September 9, 2015

By Tonya S. Swindell

One of my assignments as a mental health occupational therapist is to facilitate a life skills group for veterans who are in various stages of recovery, so I often hear them talk about the importance of “people, places and things.”

Some veterans talk about ending relationships with people who hinder their recovery processes. Others discuss how helpful it is to move away from familiar places that trigger bad habits leading to poor health, lack of funds and friends turning away. Many veterans discuss benefits they get from hanging around other veterans, attending church or support groups and engaging in different activities or routines that assist with living a healthier lifestyle.

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Everybody needs to be delivered from something, so when I facilitate occupational therapy groups, it helps me to remember “recovery” is not just about drugs and alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes “recovery” as “a process through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. “

SAMSHA also outlines guiding principles of recovery, which state that recovery emerges from hope; is person-driven; occurs via many pathways; is holistic; is supported by peers and allies; is supported through relationship and social networks; is culturally based and influenced; is supported by addressing trauma; involves individuals, family and community strengths and responsibility; and is based on respect.

To me the definition and guiding principles of “recovery” can also be applied to habits that seem less noticeable, like procrastination, talking negatively about myself or others, or my tendency to feel anxious about situations that are out of my control.

I’ve found that The Serenity Prayer can be a useful tool to seek help from God when trying to figure out which things can and cannot be controlled in life. The prayer goes like this:

“God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His Will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.


We can control some things in life, but others we cannot. When we acknowledge our inabilities but believe in God’s capabilities, recovery becomes a possibility. Jesus said, “… all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23). I also like The Message Bible’s interpretation of Matthew 19:26: “Jesus looked hard at them and said, ‘No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.’”

Tonya Swindell writes a blog for and a teacher for Kingdom Building Equipping School ( She can be reached at