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“In Recovery” From Substance Use: What Does It Mean?

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Being in recovery from substance use disorders means different things to different people.  The term signifies that a person is in the process of moving past their addiction.  It also means the person recognizes their problem and is trying to fix it.  Recovery cannot be completed within a certain time frame.  Rather, it is an ongoing effort that presents a range of challenges that can trigger a relapse.  

Difference Between Being Sober and Being In Recovery

Being In RecoveryWhile an individual is in recovery, they are not actively struggling with substance use.  However, their addiction is not “cured.”  Unfortunately, no magic pill exists that will end addiction.  Being in recovery means the person is actively pushing through day by day to remain sober. 

A person in recovery must make choices each day to uphold their sobriety.  It takes determination, persistence, and a strong commitment to meeting recovery goals.  

Difference between being sober and being in recovery:

  • Sobriety is the state of living without an addictive substance.
  • Recovery involves taking an active role in healing mentally, physically, and emotionally from substance use and its underlying causes.  

What Does Being in Recovery Feel Like?

Recovery from substance use isn’t easy.  A person must learn to let go of the shame, guilt, anger, and fear that surrounds addiction.  It is then necessary for them to learn how to replace negative emotions with positive ones, such as hope, courage, confidence, and belief in themselves.

Being in recovery means living with purpose, independence, and power. It means leaving substance use behind and feeling empowered to create a new future. 

What Are the 5 Rules of Recovery?

Addiction treatment is often the last resort for some people.  They have already tried to quit on their own and failed.  Professional treatment is their best option for learning the skills that will help them avoid relapse skills that will help them avoid relapse.  

Relapse prevention is an essential aspect of recovery.  Although about 60% of people in recovery relapse, how they handle the relapse is crucial.  It is important not to view relapse as a failure but rather as a learning experience.  

According to NIH, the five rules of recovery are as follows:

  1. Change your life
  2. Be completely honest
  3. Ask for help
  4. Practice self-care
  5. Don’t bend the rules

The goal of addiction treatment programs is to help a person recognize the early warning signs of relapse.  Furthermore, treatment programs teach individuals relapse prevention techniques including how and when to use them.  

Are There Different Stages of Being in Recovery?

Yes, recovery is a gradual process.  No one can claim that they are finished recovering.  An ongoing process of self-improvement and development is essential.  For most individuals, recovery occurs through stages of transition, early recovery, and ongoing recovery.  These stages can also be referred to as abstinence, repair, and growth.  

Abstinence Stage (Transition) – This stage starts as soon as the person stops using.  During this time, the individual focuses on dealing with cravings and not giving in to them.  It’s important to avoid making major life changes at this point to prevent becoming overwhelmed.  Withdrawal symptoms can last up to two years and tend to come and go.  A person is at higher risk of relapse during this stage.   

Repair Stage (Early Recovery) – In this stage, a person must confront the effects their substance use had on their family, friends, employers, and their own self-esteem.  During this time, the individual will feel worse for a while as they overcome their guilt and other negative emotions.  The main causes of relapse during this stage are poor self-care and failing to attend self-help groups.

Growth Stage (Ongoing Recovery) –  This stage of recovery is about moving forward.  The person must work on refining the skills they learned in rehab.  It’s time to set boundaries, give back, help others, and periodically reevaluate their progress.

Does Relapse Happen in Stages?

One key to relapse prevention is knowing that relapse happens gradually.  For instance, it may take weeks or months after treatment before an individual uses again.  This is why it is vital to recognize the early warning signs of relapse.  

The stages of relapse are complex, but they can be grouped into three main categories:

  • Emotional Relapse – Emotional relapse includes warning signs such as failing to attend meetings, isolation, focusing on others, poor self-care, and denial.
  • Mental Relapse – The individual struggles with wanting to use, but not wanting to use.  This stage of relapse includes cravings, thinking about using, minimizing the consequences of using, looking for opportunities to use, and planning a relapse.
  • Physical Relapse – This stage happens when a person feels they can use and not get caught.  Unfortunately, one drink or one drug use often leads to uncontrolled use.  The person may ignore progress made in recovery and instead focuses on the overwhelming challenges ahead.  

Get Your Recovery Process Started at Design for Change Recovery

Wanting to beat addiction is a worthwhile goal.  If you’re ready to begin your recovery process, contact Design for Change Recovery today.   We offer a unique program structure that we will customize to suit your specific needs.  You can reach us by phone or online anytime.  We are eager to assist you in taking control of your life’s direction.


"In Recovery" From Substance Use: What Does It Mean?