Addiction Recovery

Everyone can recover from addiction. It starts with a desire for change and a belief that you can overcome the disease. With effective treatment, a safe environment and support, you can live a more fulfilling life.

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Recovery is a lifelong process of improving health and well-being while living independently. Many people suffering from addiction achieve sobriety. Recovery is more difficult. It involves changing your outlook on life, your behavior and in some cases your environment. Successful recovery is inspired by the hope that recovery is possible and faith that you will recover.

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The Four Pillars of Recovery


Making decisions that support physical and mental health and avoiding drugs, alcohol or other substances of abuse.


Living for something, whether it’s taking care of someone, giving back to the community or striving to reach goals.


Cultivating meaningful relationships, characterized by friendship and love.


Having a safe, stable and stress-free place to live.

Principles of Recovery

Recovery is different for everyone. It’s a highly individualized process that is influenced by numerous factors, including the type, severity and duration of addiction. However, there are principles that encompass recovery for all types of addiction.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s guiding principles of recovery are:

  • Recovery can occur in many different ways.
  • It is empowering and self-directed.
  • It is a process of healing and change.
  • It involves becoming a part of society.
  • It involves numerous cultural dimensions.
  • It requires support from others.
  • It is a component of overall health.
  • Recognition for change is needed.
  • It must be holistic.
  • Recovery does, can and will happen.
  • It begins with hope.
  • It involves transcending stigma and shame.

Steps to Recovery

Many people suffering from addiction don’t know where to seek help or how to recover. They may have failed to recover on their own and believe recovery is impossible. Many people are in denial about their illness or ashamed to admit they’re addicted. The following steps will help people suffering from addiction begin recovery.

1 Recognize Addiction Exists

The first step of recovery is recognizing addiction exists and admitting change is necessary to overcome it. In most situations, a person cannot recover from addiction until they’re willing to commit to change. Recognizing addiction exists also means recognizing that recovery is possible.

2 Learn About Addiction

Most people don’t understand what addiction is. Many people believe addiction is a choice, but it isn’t. Addiction is a disease, and it requires disease-specific treatment. You can learn about the different types of addiction to aid in your substance abuse recovery.

3 Prepare for Recovery

Treatment and recovery are most successful when people prepare to overcome addiction.

A number of simple tips can help you prepare to recover from addiction:

  • Decide to make the changes necessary to ensure a successful recovery.
  • Ask for support from friends, family and peers.
  • Determine the best treatment option for you.
  • Make arrangements with a health professional to talk about treatment.
  • Develop a plan for recovery after treatment.

4Seek Treatment

Treatment is different for everyone. Patient-centered treatment plans address individual needs and are flexible to each person’s situation in life. Determine the best treatment option for you to begin recovery.

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Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment means staying at a facility for 30, 60 or 90 days. Facilities that provide inpatient treatment include detox centers, comprehensive rehabilitation centers, hospitals and some nonprofit community organizations. Most people seeking inpatient treatment require safe, structured environments.

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Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient care provides the same treatment that inpatient facilities do, such as detox, counseling and therapy. However, outpatient care allows patients to have much more freedom. Patients attend daily meetings or multiple meetings during a week, but they can still work or attend school.

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Cost of Treatment

The costs of avoiding treatment far outweigh the costs of rehab. Addiction leads to poor physical, mental and financial health. Low-cost or state-sponsored treatment facilities are effective, but they often include few amenities and have long waiting lists. Luxury treatment centers provide high-end accommodations, but the bill for one of these centers is much larger than for a standard facility.

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Transitioning After Treatment

After achieving sobriety and attending therapy at an addiction rehabilitation center, recovery truly begins. For many people, transitioning to a life without constant support from doctors and nurses is difficult. Transitional living facilities exist to help people in recovery from addiction maintain sobriety and find meaning in life.

Sober Living Homes

Sober living homes, including halfway houses, improve treatment outcomes for people recovering from addiction. Stays can range from several weeks to several months, and the cost is similar to renting an apartment — some cost more than others.

Characteristics of sober houses include:

  • A ban of all alcohol and drugs.
  • Encouraged (sometimes mandatory) attendance at support group meetings.
  • Attending house meetings and completing chores.
  • Paying bills and other fees regularly.

Other Transitional Environments

It’s important for people in recovery to avoid returning to high-risk living environments. If a person’s home is full of risks that could lead to relapse, he or she should stay with supportive family members or friends when sober living homes aren’t an option.

Finding Purpose

Many people recovering from addiction find happiness in helping others who are recovering from addiction. Others discover a spiritual or religious calling that gives them purpose. It’s important to find something that makes you happy, especially during the early stages in your recovery.

“The hope is that people with addictions don’t ever really get out of treatment. Relapse prevention interventions could include medications, behavioral interventions, AA – it all depends on the individual and what works for them.”

Dr. Thomas Kosten founder of the division of substance abuse at Baylor College of Medicine

Lifelong Recovery

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process, and it requires lifelong effort. The earliest days of detox may seem like the most difficult, but maintaining sobriety, changing behavior and finding happiness can also be challenging. With treatment and support, you can be free of addiction.

Avoiding Relapse

Avoiding addiction-oriented behavior — whether you’re avoiding drugs or abstaining from gambling — is a key component of substance abuse recovery. There are several ways people in recovery can avoid relapse, but one of the most well-known is HALT. The acronym describes feelings that can lead to relapse.

How to avoid relapse with the HALT method:

An unhealthy diet harms your emotional well-being.
Feelings of anger or frustration build up and can lead to relapse.
Isolation and self-pity lead to loneliness, which makes recovery difficult.
Lack of sleep or overwhelming stress derails motivation for recovery.

Learn more about preventing and overcoming a relapse

Managing Relapse

People in recovery often relapse. Between 40 and 60 percent of people recovering from addiction relapse, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost. Therapy teaches people how to manage relapse, and support helps decrease the severity of relapse when it occurs.

Stress-Relief Strategies

Stress is one of the most common risk factors for addiction and relapse. People who have been in recovery for years can relapse when life becomes stressful.

These steps can help you find relief from stress:

  • Change your environment or avoid high-risk situations.
  • Remove stressful relationships from your life.
  • Aim for short-term goals and make progress one day at a time.
  • Exercise regularly — even walking helps remove stress.
  • Eat a healthy diet to maintain physical and mental health.

A Life Free of Addiction

Every aspect of life should be aimed at maintaining happiness and well-being. People in recovery should find a job they find pleasure in, develop meaningful relationships and attempt to achieve realistic goals. Many people attend support group meetings, volunteer or pursue a spiritual calling, but everyone is different. Each person must discover what he or she wants to live for.

100 Page Guide To Sobriety
  • Quick Tips for Sobriety
  • Relapse Prevention Plan
  • Accessing Resources
pages from the sobriety ebook

Recovery Advice

If you’re suffering from addiction, or you know someone who is, help is available. There is no good reason to avoid recovery. The following advice can help you no matter where you are in the recovery process.

Advice for Adults

It can be difficult to admit that you have difficulty controlling your thoughts and actions, but living in denial is not a healthy option.

  • If you haven’t been able to recover on your own, seek professional rehabilitation. Addiction affects the brain, and medical treatment is the best way to recover.
  • Affordable treatment is available. Check with your insurance provider or search for rehab for uninsured and underinsured people.
  • Accept and embrace treatment. The more dedication you have toward recovery, the more likely you are to achieve it.

Advice for Teens

Addiction can occur at any age. Drug abuse and compulsive behaviors are more dangerous for teens because their bodies and brains are still developing.

  • If you’re worried about getting in trouble, talk to your doctor about your addiction. If you’re using drugs, they can’t tell law enforcement or your parents.
  • Treatment is safe. There are treatment centers that specialize in treating teens, and some facilities allow you to continue school and other activities during recovery.
  • Seek peer support. Many communities have support groups for teens that are supervised by young adults. Peer support can help you understand addiction and recovery.

Advice for Friends and Families

People suffering from addiction often fear telling family and friends. They’re ashamed of their behavior, or they fear the stigma associated with their disease. Friends and family members should support their loved one’s recovery and comfort them during their time of need.

  • Learn about addiction. Learn to recognize it by looking for changes in behavior and appearance. Avoid stigmatizing or shaming, and understand how treatment works.
  • Encourage your friend or loved one to seek professional rehabilitation. Addiction is a disease that requires professional treatment. Support them during treatment and recovery.
  • Intervene if your friend or loved one is unable to recognize their addiction or unwilling to seek help. Safe and structured intervention can be a positive, life-changing experience.

Support Groups & Meetings

Building a strong system of support is vital to recovery. Sometimes the best support comes from someone with experience. Peer-run support groups exist for almost any addiction, including 12-step programs such as marijuana anonymous, cocaine anonymous, gamblers anonymous, sexaholics anonymous and overeaters anonymous.

Nanci Stockwell of Advanced Recovery Systems emphasizes the role of support groups during treatment for addiction and recovery.

Failing to correct unhealthy behaviors developed during active addiction can increase a person’s risk for relapse. Dry drunks, for example, are people who have achieved sobriety from alcohol but continue to act impulsively and display other behaviors associated with alcoholism. Regular attendance at support group meetings can help people recognize and avoid thoughts and actions that may lead to relapse.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Logo

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the largest support groups in the United States. As with most support groups, there is no cost to join. The only requirement is a willingness and conscious effort to achieve and maintain sobriety.

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Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous allows people working to overcome drug addiction to support each other on their path to recovery. Every member must attempt to abstain from drug abuse, and participation is free.

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SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is a non-spiritual organization that has a four-point program for recovering from addiction. The organization also hosts a free online support group for people in recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Chris Elkins, MA
Senior Content Writer,
Chris Elkins worked as a journalist for three years and was published by multiple newspapers and online publications. Since 2015, he’s written about health-related topics, interviewed addiction experts and authored stories of recovery. Chris has a master’s degree in strategic communication and a graduate certificate in health communication.

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