One of the questions that people considering giving up an addiction will have is how long it will take them to recover? This is a reasonable question but providing an exact answer to it will be difficult. First of all it would need to be determined what they meant by recover. There is no doubt that the life of the individual can improve as soon as they give up alcohol or drugs, but it can take a bit longer for them to build the type of life they desire. After all, the fall into addiction will not have happened overnight so it is unreasonable to expect the recovery to happen instantly. By ending the addiction the individual will have taken the crucial first step on a path that can lead them to true happiness.
It is difficult to determine a timeframe for addiction recovery because:
* It is not clear what is meant by addiction recovery. If people mean by this that they will be able to drink or use drugs normally again then such a recovery will probably never be possible – if they mean just no longer using alcohol or drugs then they will have recovered as soon as they stop this behavior.
* It is often said that addiction is a process and not an event. This is because what people mean by the word recovery tends to be much more than just physical sobriety.
* When people say that they have recovered from an addiction it does not mean that they are completely cured. This is because if they relapse they will be right back where they started – this is why some people prefer to use the term recovering rather than _recovered.
* Even people who have been sober for decades can still relapse back to substance abuse.
The subject of whether people are recovered or recovering from an addiction can be the cause of a good deal of debate within the recovery community. Those who follow the 12 Step approach view addiction as an incurable disease where only a remission is possible for the individual – this is why they prefer to use the word recovering. Groups such as Rational Recovery would argue that by giving up the behavior the individual will have already recovered from it. They would even go on to say that by holding onto the label of recovering the individual may be making things harder for themselves and increasing their own risk of relapse. Others might argue that how the person refers to themselves is not that important so long as they do what needs to be done to keep their sobriety on track – at the end of the day these labels are just words. It is therefore up to each individual to decide if they wish to consider themselves recovering or recovered. The main thing is that they accept that no matter which label they use they will not be able to drink alcohol or use drugs again.
It is often stated that recovery is a process and not an event. The idea here is to emphasize the fact that giving up alcohol or drugs is only the start of the journey towards a successful life. It is the vital first step but there will be plenty more work ahead. The type of challenges that people will face after they become sober include:
* Rebuilding relationships that have been harmed because of the substance abuse. It can take many years to get back the trust and respect that have been lost because of the downward spiral into addiction.
* One of the early challenges that many people face in recovery is the transition from rehab to home. This can be when people are most vulnerable to relapse so they need to prepare for a smooth transition with appropriate aftercare.
* When people are addicted to drinking alcohol or using drugs their life will revolve around these substances. This means that when they become sober they will need to find a new meaning and purpose – this is vital because a life that lacks these qualities will be unsatisfying.
* One of the most usual reasons for why people fall into addiction in the first place is because they feel unable to cope with life. This means that in recovery they will need to develop new more effective coping strategies.
* Boredom is a common relapse trigger for people in recovery so the individual will need to find ways of avoiding this. In order to do this the person will need to find new activities they enjoy with which they can spend their free time.
* Walking away from substance abuse usually means leaving behind drinking or drug using friends. This means that the individual will need to build a new social network in recovery.
* It is likely that the individual will have to face old challenges – things that they have tried to avoid dealing with by turning to alcohol or drugs. The person usually finds that dealing with these things is nowhere near as difficult as they once thought, and the rewards of doing so are high.
* Sobriety is also sure to mean facing new challenges. It is helpful to view these as opportunities to grow rather than as obstacles in the path.
* Dealing with character flaws is the work of a lifetime, but it is important that people begin work on overcoming these because it will be these flaws that drove them into addiction in the first place.
* People who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs will often have harmed their careers. It can take time and effort to undo this damage so that they can rebuild their career.
When people complete a rehab program it can feel as if they have graduated. While these people do deserve to feel proud it is vital that they keep things in proportion. The purpose of these inpatient treatment programs is not to cure addiction – the aim is to give the individual a firm foundation on which to build their future sober life. If they leave rehab and fail to do additional work they are unlikely to find success and will be at risk of relapse. This is why it can be better to consider the final day in rehab as just the beginning.
* The individual acknowledges that they have a problem.
* They become willing to change.
* The individual will take action to end their addiction such as entering rehab.
* Early recovery involves learning the skills needed to stay sober – much of this work can be done in rehab.
* Abstinence maintenance means taking all the steps necessary to stay sober. This can include things like aftercare and building a support network.
* After about two years the individual will enter advanced recovery. By now they will be used to living a good life away from alcohol and drugs, and many of the things they need to do to remain sober will be done automatically.
* Emotional sobriety comes after many years of facing challenges and overcoming these. When the individual is emotionally sober they rarely (if ever) have to deal with overwhelming emotions.
* Some people would say that the final stage of recovery is serenity. This refers to an inner calmness and happiness that the individual enjoys no matter what is happening in their life – it was the search for this feeling of inner peace that drove many people into substance abuse in the first place.