More to Recovery Than Sobriety

Many people assume that sobriety means that an individual is recovered from his or her substance use disorder. However, being sober is just being sober; recovering from a substance use disorder requires several steps in a process that is structured around promoting long-term recovery and, subsequently, sobriety. Although sobriety is an essential element to the rehabilitation process, overall rehab success is found in the treatment itself.

With any substance use disorder, recovering and maintaining long-term sobriety requires a complete lifestyle change. Once an individual has reached the point when he or she is seeking help for substance dependency, that person has to make the decision to remove all the adverse factors that contributed to the substance dependency in the first place. These factors may include toxic relationships, high-risk situations, a lack of coping skills, or the general environment. Making that lifestyle change is an integral, yet challenging, part of the rehabilitation process. However, there are skills and tools that can assist you in beginning the process for successful rehabilitation.

Addiction is a gradual, subtle disease that can be influenced by several factors. In the same way, the road to recovery will vary for each individual. The rehabilitation process, a vital aspect of the journey, consists of methods, techniques, and tools that are specific to an individual’s needs. However, most people with a substance use disorder will tackle and overcome similar phases throughout the process.

Sobriety Versus Recovery

Recovery has many in-between stages that are essentially small steps leading to a greater goal. On the path to self-discovery and long-term sobriety, there are many challenges that can affect an individual mentally, physically, and emotionally. For this reason, recovering from a substance dependency requires more than being sober.

At this point, it is clear that sobriety is more than abstaining from a particular substance. Why is that true when the ultimate goal of recovering is to void the relationship with a substance? Essentially, if someone with a substance use disorder were to quit today, by definition, that person is sober.

However, simply not using a substance does not mean a person is recovered from his or her substance dependency. Treating an addiction involves abstaining from substances as well as maintaining sobriety and becoming a productive member of society. Without the right tools and treatment, an individual has a high likelihood of relapsing at some point because combating a substance dependency requires a complete life change, including finding the right treatment plan to adjusting to a life without the substance.

What separates sobriety from recovery is the process behind it that prepares an individual for long-term success. If a person measures his or her success by the ability to become sober, a relapse will equate to failure. However, while recovering, relapsing is an expected part of the process. Attempts at becoming sober will likely be unsuccessful without a long-term relapse prevention plan. With a professional treatment plan, relapse prevention is embedded in the program.

Acknowledging an Addiction

The first part of the rehabilitation process is admitting there is a problem. Due to the likely maladaptive behaviors and habits that are associated with addiction, awareness of the addiction is often brought to the forefront by family members, friends, and peers. It may also occur that certain life circumstances are directly or indirectly affected by substance use. For example, an individual may be faced with issues at work, legal concerns, or substance-related health changes. Nevertheless, the consequences of addiction typically establish a bridge that leads to a transition.

This stage is paramount in the rehabilitation process because it is the critical component that sets the stage for the rest of the journey. Being aware of the problem is the only way an individual can commit to the process and subsequent changes. Without early acknowledgment, an individual is likely to drop out of the processor to refuse to move forward at all.

During this phase, it is not uncommon for an individual to remain in his or her addiction while contemplating the next steps. Also, this person may hesitate or resist seeking rehabilitative treatment. According to American Addiction Centers, in 2016, of the 21 million people who needed substance use treatment, only an estimated 3.8 million actually received treatment. In part, this is because many people are initially reluctant; at the beginning stage, the benefits of treatment may not be obvious in comparison to the perceived benefits of continuing the use of the substances. The goal in acknowledgment is to bring awareness to the negative effects that addiction has on the individual’s life.

Preparing for the Road to Recovery

The decision to seek treatment is the step right before action is taken. During this phase, a person may make the effort to learn more about the disease, its effects, the rehabilitation process, and the life-changing rewards. Although the individual may not be actively pursuing treatment, he or she is taking the necessary steps and becoming familiar with the process.

At this point, the person may realize that the changes necessary for becoming sober are achievable. He or she is also more willing to understand and accept the consequences of his or her actions. This is usually where the support system convinces him or her to make the decision to seek treatment. While there may not be a concrete commitment at this stage, an individual realizes and acknowledges the damage of his or her substance addiction and the role it has played in his or her life.

Being proactive and realizing that long-term sobriety is necessary and attainable is the most important element of the rehabilitation process. If you make the right choice and proceed with seeking treatment, the next stage is preparing for recovery by creating a clean atmosphere to start a life without an addiction following rehabilitation. You can prepare for recovery by:

Determining the kind of changes desired

With addiction, the general goal is not only to become sober but also to maintain sobriety long term.

Making an actionable goal

With a goal in mind, you can then focus on how to be successful. Once again, long-term recovery involves steps that include seeking professional treatment.

Utilizing resources

Finding the right treatment plan that is suitable to address each individual’s desired needs is important. You should optimize resources and find a rehabilitation program that fits your needs in every way.

Removing triggers

Although the real work has not started, triggers make it difficult to move past an addiction. Triggers can include unhealthy relationships, available paraphernalia, and continuing circumstances that may drive you to substance use.

Establishing a support system

If you have gotten to this point, it is likely that you have a support network that may have encouraged you to seek help. Having a healthy support system is an important part of the process because your supports can help you reduce stress and discourage old, maladaptive behaviors, two factors that will compromise sobriety and rehabilitation.

Seeking Help

Once an individual with a substance dependency begins seeking help for an addiction, that person is ready to begin embarking on the many changes to come. While this stage can be very stressful and intimidating, it is where the real work begins. There are various avenues for rehabilitation that vary in cost, duration, and services. Treatment options include:

Inpatient or residential facility

These facilities are designed to house individuals during the course of their treatments. In addition, medical, detox, and therapy services are typically offered. These programs are beneficial to those who may have concurrent mental disorders, who lack secure living conditions, who require detox, or who need a solid support network.

Outpatient facility

Outpatient treatment does not provide housing. Instead, it typically offers services on a scheduled basis. These facilities are not as intensive as inpatient programs but may offer similar treatment services. These programs are best suited for those who are motivated to attend scheduled sessions, who have a stable living situation, who need to tend to daily responsibilities, and who are able to travel back and forth to the facility.

Regardless of the treatment program, this stage will require more than being sober. The individual will be committing to the process of making significant changes in his or her life that promote healthier, productive living. The tools acquired in a treatment program are necessary for moving forward and altering aspects involving your health, social life, relationships, and career.

After actively seeking help, the most critical part of rehabilitation becomes making the decision to enter an addiction rehabilitation program. At this point, you are becoming more knowledgeable about the rehabilitation process, and you understand what it means to live sober and how to get there.

Completing Long-Term Treatment

While no two paths to rehabilitation may look the same, there are principles of effective treatment that include the following:

  • Addiction should be treated as a complex disease affecting the brain and behavior.
  • Treatment should be easily accessible.
  • No single treatment is appropriate for every individual.
  • Detoxification is the first step of treatment.
  • Treatment should address multiple needs.
  • Treatment should address possible mental health disorders.
  • Substance use should be monitored.
  • Different forms of therapy should be used.
  • Treatment plans should be modified to align with changing needs.
  • Medication is a necessary part of treatment.
  • The individual should remain in treatment for an adequate amount of time.
  • Effective treatment does not have to be voluntary.
  • Recovery is a long-term process.

Successfully completing treatment is a significant milestone in the rehabilitation process. Effective treatment addresses addiction by involving the individual’s emotional, physical, and mental needs. This means addressing underlying factors that may have contributed to the onset and progression of substance dependency.

Maintaining Sobriety

The hardest part of recovery may be life following rehabilitation. Returning to a normal life without the substance of choice can be challenging. At this stage, it is not enough to simply abstain from substances. This is when sobriety really differentiates from recovery. The focus is placed on developing healthy and positive energy and habits that replace a lifestyle that was once dictated by substance use.

It is not only important to develop healthy relationships, but you should also make an effort to maintain current, positive relationships. Building and maintaining an uplifting atmosphere will be beneficial to the rehabilitation process. Keeping in contact with people who were a part of the addiction can create high-risk situations. The individual should turn to those people who are motivating him or her to continue on the current path and discouraging former behaviors.

A key part of maintaining sobriety and continuing with rehabilitation is utilizing coping skills to manage stress. Oftentimes, someone with a substance dependency will turn to those substances to deal with life stressors that they are unable to handle otherwise. Without the right tools to relax and handle stress, old habits may resurface since the human tendency is to resort to what is familiar.

Overall, seeking treatment for addiction is an opportunity to make grand life changes that will reap lifelong rewards. Recovery is a long-term process that isn’t measured by your ability to become sober. At any point, an addictive behavior can resurface and result in a relapse.

The core of an effective treatment program is to develop a relapse prevention plan that can be used throughout the road to recovery. Maintaining sobriety is a lifelong endeavor that does not end with a relapse. Sustained sobriety and successful recovery are attainable for any individual with a substance use disorder who wishes to seek treatment.

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