What is the metric that we use to determine ‘successful’ recovery from addiction? Is it the number of days, months, or years of abstinence? Or is it something more abstract?
Completing your rehab at a treatment facility is one thing, but no one ever really finishes recovery. It’s an ongoing process, a commitment that you make every single day to stay the straight and narrow of sobriety. But it does become easier. Like learning to ride a bike, the start may be shaky, but as you build up momentum, the journey becomes smoother.
But even with riding a bike, there are bumps in the road to recovery. If you’re not careful, trauma, stress, and unhealthy coping mechanisms will throw you off balance. Even with double-digit years of sobriety under your belt, relapse is possible.
So while each chronological milestone of recovery should be celebrated, it’s important to remember that each one in itself is not the be-all-end-all of recovery success. Finishing an inpatient program is a success. Health improvements are signs of success, as are healthy coping mechanisms, daily routines, and maintaining fulfilling relationships.
The Root of the Problem
Tackling addiction without addressing its underlying sources is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. Even if you are sober in the short term, the untreated conditions that made you turn to substances in the first place are still there. But if sobriety is your long-term goal, and you are willing to see it through, change is possible and there is promise of success in addiction treatment.
Attending therapy regularly to unpack and process your thoughts and behaviors is critical to long-term, sustainable sobriety. But beyond that, you must continue making that effort on your own time. Consider it mental and emotional homework: it’s not easy or pleasant, but it’s necessary to improve your overall state of wellbeing.
Getting sober requires changing your headspace as well as your physical space. Your life when you were “out there” probably won’t look or feel the same as the way it does now. Maybe this means distancing yourself from relationships that triggered or encouraged substance use. Or perhaps it means no longer attending certain social events or venues like bars and nightclubs.
The Other Side Of Life
The key to success in addiction treatment is substituting the negative for the positive. This involves establishing or rebuilding a supportive, trusting relationship, swapping harmful coping mechanisms for positive, self-affirming strategies, and replacing unhealthy habits with things that make you feel good, mentally and physically. When the building blocks are in place for a healthier lifestyle, there is a greater likelihood of successful long-term sobriety.
Remember that no matter how long you have been sober, you are worthy of health and happiness. It is never too late to choose recovery, and it is never too late to start making a change. Successful recovery isn’t a number; it’s a lifestyle. Every choice you make, no matter how small, is another step towards success.