What is Recovery?

This month, we’ve been focusing on terms that are specific to the substance abuse treatment world. We’ve defined substance abuse and addiction, types of treatment: detox, residential or inpatient, and outpatient; methods of treatment: evidence-based, 12-Step and Faith Based. We shared the 12-Steps and provided additional information on the background of the steps. Now, it’s time to discuss the goal – recovery.

Many people debate if addiction is a disease or a moral issue. If they agree it is a disease, they want a cure. Sadly, there are many diseases that have no cures, but can be managed through behavioral habits, diet and exercise. Diabetes is one such disease that is very similar to addiction in many ways. If a person does not follow a diabetic diet and monitor their glucose levels, their health can rapidly deteriorate because their body cannot process sugar. Diabetics are never cured, but many live long, productive lives through management of the disease. Addiction is similar – there is no cure, but through behavioral change, addiction can be managed. In the treatment world, we call this recovery.

According to a 2007 article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, “recovery is defined as a voluntarily maintained lifestyle characterized by sobriety, personal health and citizenship.” It is important to note that the definition includes all three and that sobriety alone is not recovery. While sobriety is abstinence from drugs/alcohol, personal health leads to improved quality of life, including physical health, psychological health, independence and spirituality. Finally, citizenship is the demonstration of regard and respect for others.

Recovery is an on-going process. There is no timetable on how long it will take an individual to reach a life of recovery – each person is different with different motivating factors. Recovery, especially in the newer phases, needs to be nurtured. This is most commonly done by attending aftercare and 12-Step meetings. The goal is lifelong recovery.

Regardless if you are living a life of recovery, or simply maintaining an abstinence from drugs or alcohol, the term used when abstinence is not maintained is relapse. Relapse will be the topic of our next blog.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.