What is Recovery Capital?

A group therapy session about recovery capital
June 22, 2022
|   Updated:
November 3, 2023

When it comes to approaching addiction, many different types of recovery resources are available. Recently, the term ‘Recovery Capital’ has gained popularity for its potential outcome in the world of substance abuse treatment.

With a plethora of recovery treatments available to those with addiction, the community is curious as to what makes Recovery Capital unique in its specific successes.

More specifically, the community wants these questions answered: what is Recovery Capital, and what does it actually look like for someone pursuing sobriety?

What is Recovery Capital?

Recovery Capital is a term coined by researchers William Cloud and Robert Granfield; they define it as, “The breadth and depth of internal and external resources that can be drawn upon to initiate and sustain recovery from alcohol and other drug problems.”

Originating from their book Coming Clean: Overcoming Addiction without Treatment, as well as a multitude of academic articles, Cloud and Granfield explain how Recovery Capital is broken up into four sectors: personal, social, community, and cultural capital. Each sector contains different resources that differ from person to person.

The core belief in Recovery Capital stems from the reasoning that addiction needs to be approached more than a “traditional” or clinical treatment plan to sustain sobriety. Cloud and Granfield argue that simply detoxing or no longer drinking is not enough to maintain long-standing recovery.

Because addiction is not one size fits all, recovery and treatment should not be either. Approaching recovery with a plan unique to each individual is key to a successful outcome and is a core principle in the Recovery Capital approach.

In short, Recovery Capital refers to an individual's available resources they have accessible that assist them in achieving and maintaining sobriety. It utilizes multiple resources for the remainder of your life to remain in recovery.

The Four Dimensions: Personal, Social, Community, and Cultural

Different types of recovery capital

As previously mentioned, Recovery Capital comprises four different groups of capital: personal, social, community, and cultural.

There may be times when specific resources are in multiple dimensions and instances where some dimensions may be more affluent than others; the available capital is dependent on the individual. 

Each dimension is unique and will look different from person to person.

Personal Capital

A smiling woman trying to sleep in the coach

Personal capital includes both the physical and human capital of an individual; it is based solely on an individual’s resources regardless of location. It can increase or decrease as an individual grows. 

Physical Personal Capital

Physical capital refers to the physical resources around an individual that can be objectively measured.

Some examples include financial security, shelter and access to food and other basic necessities, physical health, and the ability to navigate transportation.

Human Recovery Personal Capital

Human recovery capital refers to the skills/resources an individual has that are not as easily measured or oftentimes able to be measured.

Some examples of human recovery capital include an individual's self-esteem and/or awareness, values, knowledge, mental health, world view/mindset, optimism, education/career, and problem-solving ability. 

Social Capital

A happy social family in the living room with dog on the carpet

Social capital, sometimes referred to as “family capital,” refers to an individual's interpersonal relationships that can affect recovery. More specifically, social recovery capital refers to one’s intimate relationships, including family and friends and others whom they interact with most often. It is crucial to have supportive people in your life during treatment and recovery.

Though having people in your life indicates a degree of social capital, the most important aspect of this sector is the “willingness” of one’s community to help support an addict's recovery. Without this specific type of support, the social recovery capital is considered low or non-existent. In addition, it includes access to social groups and activities that promote sobriety and recovery and interpersonal connections at “conventional institutions” such as the workplace or school.

The most important aspect of social capital is the community's ability and desire to step in when necessary. The more supportive your intimate relationships are, the more social capital you have. 

Community Capital 

Clapping during a community meeting

Community capital ultimately encompasses a community's willingness to be sympathetic to those who struggle with addiction. In addition to a community’s attitude, community capital includes the resources available and policies in place surrounding addiction.

Specifically, William White states community capital includes:

  • The communities drive to minimize the stigma surrounding alcohol and recovery
  • Having local examples of those who have successfully sustained recovery who are diverse and visible to the community
  • A rolodex of local treatment resources
  • Diverse and attainable mutual aid resources
  • Meeting places for recovery-centered support like churches, recovery centers/schools, or sober social groups.
  • Recovery support and access to early intervention and treatment through the community

Community Capital Resources and Accountability

Based on location, one's community capital may not be conducive to a successful recovery. In addition, many communities shame those with addiction making it uncomfortable to seek help for those looking for sobriety.

This falls in line with the ability to hold oneself accountable as there are two types of accountability that are important to the longevity of one’s recovery: self and group accountability.

Fortunately, a few tools that fall under the Community Capital umbrella that can be utilized regardless of where you are located to help keep you sober. These tools can be accessed to help increase your community capital if a location change is not sustainable for you.

Tools for Self Accountability

The following are ways you can gain more community capital to ensure you remain steadfast in your sobriety:

Soberlink’s Remote Breathalyzer

A woman using Soberlink’s remote breathalyzer in a meeting

One of the most trusted and popular tools for monitoring addiction, specifically alcohol abuse, is Soberlink’s Remote Breathalyzer.

This alcohol monitoring device can remain on your person at all times, following you to school, work, and even extracurriculars or social activities. Not just an alcohol testing device, Soberlink is a comprehensive system that monitors alcohol intake in just a few moments with the ability to send results directly to the Monitored Client’s Recovery Circle.

A favorite amongst Addiction Professionals, the system also has built-in Advanced Reporting capabilities, allowing users to see their daily, weekly, or monthly progress using a universally understood color code. Designed with ease-of-use in mind, Soberlink is discreet and reliable and allows you to rebuild trust with your Recovery Circle, ultimately increasing both your community and social capital.

This tool travels with you, so, regardless of location, you have access to a resource that can help you gain success in your recovery.

Group Accountability

Community capital includes the resources available where individuals can access like-minded people or their intimate circle to support them through recovery; group accountability is crucial to sustained sobriety. However, sometimes we may have to look in different circles than our friends and family to gain helpful support.

Fortunately, Alcoholics Anonymous is a free and accessible resource all around the world.

The Accessibility of Alcoholics Anonymous

If your Community Capital is lacking, you may find support in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a free resource with over 100,000 weekly meetings globally.

AA is a 12-step program that consists of meetings and pairing up with a sponsor to help those with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and substance abuse or dependence get help with no financial burden. The meetings are free and a place to share your worries, qualms, and past experiences with alcohol in the hopes of reaching long-standing recovery. Frequenting meetings has also proven to increase attendees’ mental health and self-esteem.

Downloading the free app, Meeting Guide, to your cell phone allows an individual to see the times and locations of meetings closest to them. The information refreshes two times a day so it remains incredibly accurate.

With zero cost and meetings taking place all around the world, both online and offline, AA is one of the most beneficial resources available in general, but specifically when one’s community capital is minimal.

Cultural Capital

The fourth and final recovery capital, cultural capital, refers to the resources available to an individual based on their specific culture; it is a type of community capital.

Cultural capital may be based on ethnicity or religion but is specific to each group. For example, those who practice Christianity may have resources available to them through their church, or someone Native American may experience recovery with a “Red Road” mindset.

The Benefits of a Recovery Capital Approach to Alcohol Addiction

A woman explaing the benefits of a recovery capital approach to alcohol addiction

When it comes to alcoholism, it is important to note that Alcohol Use Disorder is considered a chronic illness. For example, those who suffer from other chronic illnesses, like diabetes, require life-long care to maintain their disease without their health declining; the same approach should be taken when working towards sobriety and recovery.

AUD requires constant healing and accountability that comes in all shapes and sizes; there is no one size fits all. Its treatment often involves a multitude of resources that are unique to each individual. As a result, a fixed clinical or treatment plan may not suffice; AUD lasts forever, not just when you are in a rehabilitation center.

Because most individuals benefit from individualized treatment, using the Recovery Capital approach in your recovery will likely prove beneficial. As each capital differs from person to person, the ability to utilize the resources one has without too much stress on the resources one may not have access to, longevity in sobriety is a higher possibility.

By taking inventory of the types of resources you have available to you, approaching recovery becomes less intimidating as you understand the type of support you do and do not have access to.

One last benefit is that Recovery Capital has the chance to increase. Utilizing this approach allows you to check in with yourself as needed (weekly, monthly, etc.) as you reevaluate where your capital is changing or growing and how you can best utilize that capital to sustain recovery.

How Do You Measure Recovery Capital?

Measuring your own recovery capital is not extremely difficult. William White has created a scale that allows you to easily calculate where you currently do and do not have capital in your life.

The scale will ask you questions like, “Do you have easy access to transportation?” and you will answer with a number from 1-to 5. At the end, your score is tallied, and you are able to measure how much capital you actually have.

This scale will also allow you to see where you may be lacking in certain areas of capital if you hope to improve it. At the end, it asks you to make weekly goals based on your answers.

The beauty of this system is that this can be completed on your own or with a treatment professional depending on the severity of your addiction and, as your Recovery Capital increases or decreases, you can continue to reevaluate your plan.

Is There a Downfall to the Recovery Capital Approach?

A young woman thinking in a blue sofa while reading a book

Though the Recovery Capital Approach is beneficial and effective for some, the lack of resources for specific groups can make this approach much more difficult for others.

Unfortunately, there is a disproportionate distribution of recovery resources available to certain groups of people, specifically Black and Hispanic communities. Currently, these marginalized communities are 3.5-8 % less likely to complete addiction treatment than their White counterparts.

This is due in large to these groups’ socioeconomic factors that affect nearly every sector of Recovery Capital.

In addition, the stigma surrounding addiction is extremely negative, and the general attitude affects the number of resources in these communities. This makes a sustained recovery much more difficult, even when the desire for sobriety is present. Without resources, recovery becomes overwhelming and unbearable.

However, a small amount of Recovery Capital can still be beneficial, and it can always grow as an individual grows. So, though it may be extremely hard in certain situations to invoke this method, it is still more beneficial than a strictly clinical approach and may still be successful.

Utilizing Recovery Capital to Better Your Life

The most important part of addiction recovery is sticking with a goal and routines that support that goal, even when it feels impossible.

This is why the Recovery Capital approach is proven to be beneficial for those looking for sustained recovery. By utilizing multiple resources and the ability to grow or change your capital, staying sober becomes much more doable.

However, we also need to remember that not everyone has fair access to resources, acknowledging that the stigma surrounding recovery is still somewhat negative. In our communities, it is vital that we help those who suffer from this disease by supporting their struggles and fighting for resources for those who need them.

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