Rob Warren: what recovery means to me

28th May 2018

Rob Warren, Project Worker for Making Recovery Real in Dundee, tells us what recovery means to him.

My personal journey of recovery has been enhanced, over the last year through my work as Project Worker for Making Recovery Real in Dundee. It has been a remarkably positive, life-changing and life-affirming journey. It has opened my eyes, changed my perspective, given me confidence and a sense of hope for the future. It has also been an emotional and moving experience and one in which I have met and spent time with some truly inspiring and wonderful people.

Sharing with others

I consider myself to have been in a very privileged position over the past year, listening to and collecting the recovery stories of people in Dundee. I have also witnessed how those people have changed and grown through their involvement and the many benefits that shifting the focus from ‘illness’ to ‘recovery’ can bring.


Recovery for me quite literally means renewal – a fresh start with the benefit of a new, fresh perspective about yourself, drawn from your own previous experience. For me and through hearing the stories of others it seems there is a point where things come together, quite suddenly at times. A point in time when all you have learned and experienced comes into focus and makes sense and you see yourself more completely, “This is who I am!” and it feels good. Good to be you.

Taking back control

For me the first step on my journey to recovery was the day that I decided to take back control of my life and not accept the way others defined me. It was the day realised I was more than that and that the world has more to offer than that too. So much of life is hobbled by a fear of consequences, of stepping away from the familiar or away from authority. Rejecting and questioning what you are being told – a diagnosis, pharmaceuticals, professionals and the opinions of others – runs ‘against the grain’ of how we grow up and are taught, it is not easy and is at times very scary. It took time and it took resolve.

I saw the same resolve in the people who shared their recovery stories with me, people said, “I didn’t want to be like that anymore”, “I decided to change, to not go back”, “I had a choice; either I stay on the wheel and keep going round and round, or I decide to get off. I decided to get off”. It became clear through my own experience and through the stories people shared that taking back control is a pivotal point in recovery – and something only you can decide.

Fundamentally this had nothing to do with ‘treatment’ or traditional mental health models and therapies and everything to do with making a decision to change, take back control, ownership and no longer accepting how others described and pigeon holed me.

Why not?

Much of my life has been defined by being told what I cannot do and what I am not good at. My own recovery has been marked by fighting against these views – often carried in my own head and often just accepted by me – and instead focussing on the positive – “What am I good at?”, “What can I do?”, “What do I bring?”, “What do I want to do?” and, most importantly, “Why not?”

What I have learned

Everyone’s journey is unique. To support recovery I had to learn to understand each person in their own right and be open to them sharing their story in their own unique way. Not everyone is a novelist or poet. One method or route quite definitely does not suit everyone. We each have to find our own journey, our own way of expressing ourselves and a way that works for you.

Watch the Making Recovery Real in Dundee film

Read other contributions to the ‘what recovery means to me’ series