Redefining Success in Recovery

Redefining Success in Recovery

Having a realistic and well-formed definition of success is critical when it comes to the process of addiction recovery. Many people jump into treatment without understanding any of the following:

  • How long will treatment take?
  • When will the cravings stop?
  • How soon can I go back to by normal life?
  • Will I be able to drink just a little after I get sober?

A traditional, definition of recovery success may simply be the ability to function in daily life without getting drunk or high. This might be evidenced by keeping a job or a relationship intact. There is much more to true recovery, however, than finding a way to function. For most long-term recovered addicts the definition of success has more to do with who they are than what they do or don’t do.

Understanding the Psychology of Addiction

One of the most common misunderstanding among addicts and their loved ones is that addiction is primarily about getting drunk or high. The truth is that the use of mind-altering substances as a coping or comforting mechanism is the symptom of addiction, not the cause. The real power of addiction is the way it changes the psychological functioning of the brain. Due to underlying or co-occurring emotional disorders relapse is a very real risk for months or even years after getting sober. Many recovering addicts define success as managing to avoid using drugs or alcohol for a certain amount of time when they should instead consider how effectively they are changing the way they manage the following psychological dysfunctions:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Self-esteem deficiencies
  • Panic attacks
  • Loneliness
  • Obsessions
  • Managing feelings
  • Depression

When new coping skills can be developed the recovering addict will find healthy new ways to manage these emotions rather than self-medicating with drugs or alcohol.

Addiction Recovery Success Factors

The following questions may provide a stronger context for addiction recovery than simply asking how long a person has been sober:

  • Are you maintaining transparent accountability for your time, your money, and your feelings?
  • Are you staying connected with your recovery sponsor, counselor and support group(s)?
  • Are you putting your new coping skills to use when negative emotions arise?
  • Are you enjoying, celebrating, cultivating and protecting your inner peace?
  • How healthy is your marriage or other significant romantic relationship?
  • Are you feeling good about the work that you do?
  • Are you investing time and energy in helping others along their journey to sober living?
  • Are you regularly making time to pray, meditate, or read?
  • Are you continuing to work the steps and disciplines that you know will protect your recovery?

The term “sober drunks” has been developed in recovery circles as a way of describing an addict who is falling into destructive heart and mind habits but is not using by “white knuckling” it through life. True recovery is about peace of mind, awareness, community, and healing, not just endurance.

Free Recovery Helpline

Maybe you feel yourself slipping in your recovery. Maybe you never developed a comprehensive understanding of living a substance free life by finding and protecting your inner peace. Maybe you are just now exploring the possibility of ending your abuse of drugs or alcohol. We can help. Our staff members are available any time of day or night with free, confidential advice about comprehensive recovery. Don’t just survive this life. Thrive in it. We can help. Call now.