According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), recovery is a process in which people aim to improve their health and well-being, live autonomously, and, ultimately, reach their fullest potential. In the realm of addiction, recovery is the process of overcoming a substance use disorder and establishing a productive life without the blanket of drugs and alcohol.
And yes, recovery from addiction is possible.
“Even people with severe and chronic substance use disorders can, with help, overcome their illness and regain health and social function,” explains the NIDA. This is called remission. However, recovery from addiction goes a step further: “Being in recovery is when those positive changes and values become part of a voluntarily adopted lifestyle.”
Recovery comes with ongoing commitment, maintenance, and support, and can take time to achieve. Research estimates that roughly 75 percent of people seeking recovery from a substance use problem do achieve their goal, though it often takes time to get there. For this reason, we often say that recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. But it is entirely attainable.
Having the right resources in place can set a person up for a successful, long-term recovery from addiction. In this guide, we answer common questions about recovery from addiction, and provide tips on how to achieve lasting recovery outcomes.
What is the Difference Between Remission and Recovery from Addiction?
As described above, there is a clear distinction between remission and recovery from addiction. Remission means that a person has overcome the symptoms of their substance use disorder and reached a physically healthy state. In remission, a person has achieved abstinence from drugs and alcohol. This is an important step in the recovery process, but it is not the only one.
Recovery is an ongoing process of change. Those in recovery have gone through many changes in their physical health, mental health, and emotional well-being. They have changed their perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors. They have developed positive coping techniques and healthy habits to keep drug cravings at bay. They have put in the work to understand the root cause of their addiction, as well as their relapse triggers, and are actively working to manage any negative feelings that arise. They are living a life that is meaningful and productive, and have found a purpose beyond drugs and alcohol.
What is a Successful Recovery from Addiction?
Anyone in recovery has accomplished a major success—they have identified their struggles, made a commitment to change, and are actively working to establish healthy, happy lives. Still you may be wondering, how can I know when I’ve succeeded in my recovery?
At Turnbridge, we define success as:
- You have the ability to self-manage the chronic symptoms of addiction, in a healthy way.
- You can proactively manage your physical health and mental well-being.
- You are actively engaged in a positive and productive lifestyle.
- You have set meaningful goals, and are working to achieve them.
- You have restored and/or developed healthy, supportive relationships with others.
A successful recovery from addiction is a lasting recovery. It is ongoing commitment to live your best and fullest life, and to learn to love yourself along the way.
Is Recovery from Addiction Really Possible?
The Recovery Research Institute, an extension of Massachusetts General Hospital and affiliate of Harvard Medical School, conducted a historic, landmark study on addiction recovery outcomes. Most significantly, the study found that over 22 million Americans have overcome a drug or alcohol-related problem, accounting for about nine percent of adults in the United States.
This statistic shows that recovery from addiction is not only possible; it’s common. At the time of the survey, more people reported to have resolved a substance use problem than to be facing one actively.
The survey also highlighted that those in recovery saw significant improvements in their quality of life.
What are the Benefits of Recovering from Addiction?
As difficult as it is to quit drugs and alcohol, there are many, science-supported benefits of recovery. For example, the Recovery Research Institute found that those in recovery from addiction typically experience a significant decline in psychological distress. The majority of recovering individuals also go on to accomplish major achievements, such as getting a new job, completing a college degree, and volunteering to help others in need. The longer a person is in recovery, the more they are likely to accomplish and the greater their quality of life becomes.
In Turnbridge’s own outcome survey, we found similar results. More than 95 percent of Turnbridge alumni (who completed 270 days of treatment) reported profound behavioral changes, including:
- More likely to be employed
- Better able to cope with stress and negative emotions
- Improved physical health
- Improved relationships with others
- More self-sufficient, allowing them to lead better lives
This just scratches the surface of the many benefits of recovery from addiction. Below are some other, positive outcomes you can expect from a life in recovery:
- Better physical health and appearance
- Better mental health, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Increased self-awareness and self-esteem
- More enjoyment in life and daily activities
- Ability to develop healthy, fulfilling relationships
- More motivation, leading to better performance on the job or in school
- Increased financial stability
Discover more surprising benefits of sobriety here.
How to Recover from Drug Addiction Long-Term
Recovery from addiction does not happen overnight. And while some people may find ways to recover on their own, the majority of users require professional support. This may be in the form of a residential treatment program, outpatient rehab, or ongoing therapy and support groups. This brings us to our number-one tip for those recovering from addiction: Do not be afraid to seek help. Too often, substance addiction goes untreated—leading to devastating consequences in a person’s life. By being proactive about your recovery, and getting the help you deserve, you will find the greatest success.
It is never too early to seek help for a drug problem. In fact, research shows that early intervention may be a key to better recovery outcomes. National data suggests that getting into addiction recovery early, regardless of the severity of the addiction, is associated with higher functioning and quality of life.
Everyone’s recovery journey is unique. What works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to find tactics and programs that align with your (or your loved one’s) needs. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some other, general tips for those recovering from drug addiction:
- Find a safe, supportive environment where you can stay early in your recovery.
This might be a detoxification facility, or an inpatient addiction treatment program. Find an environment that sets you up for success, away from potential triggers that might interrupt your healing process.
- Know your relapse triggers.
In order to effectively recover from addiction, you need to know what triggers you—what makes you crave or want to use drugs and alcohol. Triggers might be negative emotions, like stress, toxic relationships, old haunts, or situations that remind you of your drug-using days. Once you know your triggers, you can avoid them or manage them.
- Get moving and get healthy.
Physical health is deeply connected to mental health, and is therefore an important part of the recovery process. In your recovery, prioritize exercise and getting outside. Do things to make you feel better, including cooking nutritious meals and getting enough sleep.
- Create a routine.
When you were using drugs and alcohol, it’s likely that you did not feel in control of your life. Things may have spiraled around you, and priorities got lost. In recovery, you have the chance to rebuild a life of purpose (and give yourself the structure you previously missed). Create a productive routine that involves going to school or work, exercising, meal planning, attending therapy, and meeting with friends.
- Carve out time for self-care.
While you may want to fill your days with activities, to distract yourself from sobriety, you will find that recover also requires time for relaxation and self-care. Be sure to take time each week to wind down and de-compress. This may be through an activity you love, like taking a walk, or meditation and mindfulness.
- Build a sober network.
Recovery is a marathon, but it’s not one that you have to do alone. A sober, support network can be one of your greatest assets in the recovery process. Develop a network of friends, loved ones, mentors, and others who you trust, who support your sobriety, and who you can call in a moment’s notice.
- Commit to ongoing meetings and therapy.
Recovery is an ongoing process, which means it does not end after a rehab program is complete. You must continue committing to your recovery by attending ongoing support groups, 12-step meetings, self-help groups, and/or therapy sessions.
- Be patient and persistent.
Recovery from addiction can be a long and difficult journey, and setbacks (such as relapse) may occur. However, this does not mean that you have failed. It only means that treatment should be revisited. It often takes several tries to get recovery right. Therefore, it is important to stay committed to the recovery process and to continue seeking support as needed.
Get more expert tips for addiction recovery here.
Recovery from addiction is possible for you.
If you are ready to begin your recovery journey, but are unsure who to call for support, Turnbridge is here for you. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health and addiction treatment center, with programs for young people who are struggling with substance use disorders. Do not hesitate to give us a call at 877-581-1793 today. You may also contact us online.