Can You Ever Fully Recover From Addiction?

We honor ourselves when we speak out for recovery. We show the world that recovery matters because it brings hope and peace into the lives of individuals and their loved ones.” – Beth Wilson

It’s a common misconception that addiction is a hopeless situation. When we talk about “recovering” from a drug or alcohol addiction, the conversations can often feel negative and overwhelming. After all, more than 60% of adults in the United States struggle with drug or alcohol use disorders, and with those statistics, it’s challenging to stay positive. You may be wondering if you can ever fully recover from a drug or alcohol addiction.

Luckily, most people who struggle with addiction can maintain their sobriety in the long run, even after a relapse. Although more research is needed, the outlook for long-term recovery appears to be positive.

What Does it Mean to Recover?

So, what exactly is “recovery”?

How do you know if you’re “in recovery”?

Truthfully, there’s not a cut-and-dry answer to this question because different people define recovery in different ways. Think about your own understanding of what recovery means. Generally speaking, people in recovery want to be free of an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

For most people, recovery is synonymous with complete abstinence from all substances. What recovery entails for you will vary depending on your goals and circumstances. Recovery can be defined by religious beliefs, focusing on positive feelings and community, or by a journey of self-reflection and self-improvement.

However you approach it, recovery is a journey. Everyone’s recovery is different. You’ll know when you’ve reached your own recovery goals by how you feel rather than how other people think you should be.

How Long Does Recovery Take?

While there’s a lot of research available on active drug and alcohol abuse, we still don’t have enough studies on long-term recovery. Participants often leave the studies early, and it’s hard for scientists to agree on the definition of “long-term recovery,” which can range from 3 months to almost ten years.

Most of the data we do have focuses on the first two years of sobriety, but we know that recovery is a lifelong process. Addiction is a chronic illness, and like any chronic illness, there will be good days and bad days. The studies that we do have give us insight into recovery and the predicting factors for long-term success. These include:

Length of time in treatment

According to research, there is a positive correlation between treatment length and clinical results, meaning that as treatment length increases, more people will demonstrate significant positive changes. Treatment could be inpatient or intensive outpatient, or even regular interaction with a mental health professional. The longer you stay sober or in recovery from addiction, the higher your odds of remaining sober for the long term.

Participation in a 12-step program

Studies show that participating in a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous is a “critical ingredient in the recovery process, increasing the likelihood that gains made during treatment are reinforced and sustained.” Participation involves attending meetings or becoming a sponsor for a fellow person in recovery. 12-step programs are designed to help people identify their triggers, investigate the root causes of their substance or alcohol use, and find solutions and alternatives to substance use. Knowing what your triggers are can help to keep you from relapsing.

Committing to total abstinence

People who decide to eliminate all drug and alcohol use from their life tend to have better records of long-term recovery than those who modify the amount or frequency of their usage. Someone who has been in recovery for many years is often able to do so because they have a firm commitment to sobriety. Many people try to cut down first and find that this doesn’t work out for them.

High stakes

People in recovery who had “a lot to lose” if they relapsed tend to do better at abstaining. High stakes may be an ultimatum from a loved one, or a legal risk, like going to jail or losing custody of a child.

Social support

Having a support system is a high predictor of successful recovery, while low levels of social support are associated with an increased risk of relapse and hospitalization. Having a solid support system correlates with lower levels of stress and higher quality sleep, making you feel and function better. While general support from family is excellent, it’s essential also to have support from those who are sober because “friends’ acceptance of substance use is consistently found to be negatively associated with short-term abstinence.” At Lake Avenue Recovery, we know how valuable it is to have the support of friends and family.  That’s why we offer a free weekly meeting to help your loved ones navigate through the crisis of addiction.

Mental health treatment

Treatment for mental health challenges is an essential part of recovery. Many people who struggle with substance abuse have co-occurring mental health disorders. In fact, some studies report up to half of the participants struggle with their mental health. Anxiety disorders, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia are examples of commonly co-occurring mental health disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) are just a few of the therapies that can help people with addiction and mental health issues. Medication-assisted therapies (MAT) may also prove helpful when treating mental health in drug and alcohol users.  Lake Avenue’s intake protocol involves a psychiatric assessment for each patient, so that we can be sure your treatment program is holistic and meets all of your needs.

What Happens if I Relapse?

Relapse is common in recovery. As with the definition of recovery, the meaning of relapse is unique to each individual, but in general, relapse refers to taking drugs and alcohol after a period of abstinence. For some, relapse involves taking any illicit substance. For others, it may be using their drug of choice. Some people are triggered to drink or use drugs again by a life event. In contrast, others feel comfortable in their recovery and believe they can have “just one” drink or pill.

A relapse can be scary and even humiliating. Still, it doesn’t necessarily mean all your hard work towards recovery has been undone, and it’s important not to judge yourself too harshly. A relapse can be difficult, and even feel shameful, but it doesn’t mean you have given up on your sobriety. It is common and can often be a chance to learn from past mistakes and build better coping skills for long-term recovery. Our team of clinicians understand the importance of having a recovery plan in place. That’s why Lake Avenue Recovery offers an aftercare program to provide structure and support, individualized to each person.

There’s No Cure, But You Can Recover

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who struggle with drugs and alcohol, know that the journey to recovery is a long one. But there is hope. While we still need more research on long-term recovery, recent data gives us reasons for optimism, reporting that “3 out of 4 people who experience addiction eventually recover.” That’s a far cry from the bleak stories we see depicted in books and movies. Many people who struggle with substance and alcohol use disorders go on to live fulfilling and successful lives. You can be one of them. If you are struggling with addiction, you need a plan of action to get you to a place of recovery. As you work to recover from addiction, it’s crucial to learn new ways to think and behave that help you avoid relapse and reward yourself for healthy choices. Finding a treatment center like Lake Avenue Recovery can help you reframe your way of thinking, build healthy coping skills, and work towards recovery.

Lake Avenue Recovery was established by Jack Maroney, Dr. James DiReda, Michael Hurley, and Shaun Wallace to address the problems of a community they know intimately. The majority of the founders are in long-term recovery and all are deeply connected to the recovery community.

At Lake Avenue Recovery, we believe in providing each person who walks through our doors with personalized, compassionate, and evidence-based care because you are more than a statistic. We create a plan of care based on the person’s individual needs in recovery and reject the idea of a “one-size-fits-all” system.

Start building your plan for recovery and healing by reaching out to our team at Lake Avenue Recovery. Call now: 855-923-2354