Being in Recovery

Is Being “In Recovery” a Lifetime Commitment?

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The term being in recovery might get thrown around without much thought. Being in recovery isn’t meaningless, however. The recovery process is one of the meaningful things you might have in your life, and you can define it on the terms that work for you.

Being in long-term recovery is a lifetime commitment, which we discuss more below.

What Does it Mean to Be “in Recovery from Addiction”?

What does being in recovery from a substance use disorder mean?

To understand this question, we first should understand what addiction is and what it isn’t.

  • Addiction is a chronic brain disease that affects emotions, thinking, and behavior. 
  • Over time, there are numerous effects of addiction on every part of a person’s life. As addiction to drugs or addiction to alcohol progresses, you may experience breakdowns in relationships, financial and legal problems, and the loss of your career.
  • Since addiction is a chronic disease based on scientific evidence, there’s not necessarily a cure. We talk about other chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes or heart disease, similar to a drug or alcohol use disorder in many ways. 
  • While you can’t cure a chronic, long-term disease, what you can do is manage it and keep the symptoms under control. 
  • When your disease isn’t active, you’re in remission, or in addiction terminology, recovery.
  • You typically aren’t actively using when you’re in recovery, and you have control over your life and behavior.

In 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, recovery is the period you’re in no matter how long you’ve been drug or alcohol-free or how well your life is going. That 12-step philosophy is why we often view recovery as a lifelong commitment.

As you grow stronger in your recovery, which is very much a process, you learn how to handle uncomfortable or difficult situations differently. The risk of relapse can go down over time when you’re in recovery. 

It’s like a practice—the more you practice abstaining from substances, the better you often get.

  • If you have a chronic physical condition, you maintain your remission or recovery by going to doctor’s appointments, making lifestyle changes, and taking your medications to reduce long-term health consequences. 
  • When you’re in addiction recovery, you can maintain it by participating in self-help groups, going to therapy, and getting help when you need it.
  • When you’re in recovery, you’ll likely change your lifestyle. You’re working on rebuilding relationships and developing healthy, lifelong habits.
  • Many people require a formal rehabilitation program to start their recovery plan. It’s similar to criminal rehabilitation within criminal justice in the United States, although, of course, this isn’t to say that addicts are automatically criminals. Instead, a criminal justice rehabilitation program focuses on helping people with a history of criminal behavior separate themselves from the environmental factors leading them down that path in the first place. The idea is in some ways similar to addiction recovery. 

Being a Woman in Recovery

Men and women experience active addiction and mental health differently, which can affect the process of recovery. 

Initially, there are often different reasons women use substances in the first place. 

  • Women frequently use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate when they have undiagnosed or unmanaged mental disorders. 
  • A co-occurring disorder needs to be treated for sustainable long-term recovery.
  • Women are also more likely to have an addiction to alcohol or drugs because of a history of trauma, like sexual or physical abuse.
  • Women often develop addictions more quickly than men, and drugs and alcohol affect them differently.
  • At the same time, women are less likely to seek treatment than men. There are varying reasons for this, including shame, stigma, and an inability to leave family responsibilities.

These differences can continue even after treatment, and being a woman in recovery comes with its own set of challenges you have to prepare for.

  • If a woman returns to her romantic partner or spouse and they don’t support her recovery, or they have untreated substance use disorders, it can derail her recovery. 
  • Many women also fear the stigma of being judged as a bad mother or person for having an addiction, even when they’re in recovery.
  • Navigating romantic relationships early in recovery can be a challenge for women. A relapse can occur because of a breakup, conflict, or feelings of low self-worth that can stem from romantic relationships.
  • Women may also experience other types of replacement addictions that perhaps they don’t realize, such as love addiction or codependency.
  • For women in recovery, food or body concerns can arise. Women may experience weight gain after they stop using certain substances, particularly stimulants. In recovery, that could trigger deep-seated body image issues if not well-managed.

None of these challenges are insurmountable. A treatment program and recovery plan should prepare you with coping mechanisms for any situations specific to you, but being prepared for the realities is critical to your recovery journey.

What Else Should You Know About Being in Recovery for a Substance Use Disorder?

In your recovery, you’ll learn so much about yourself that no one could have ever told you beforehand. That’s because it is your experience and yours alone. There are some things that people often consistently share, though.

  • Making small changes will lead to long-term success and big payoffs in your personal recovery. For example, it may not seem like a big deal to meditate every day for five minutes. In the long-term, though, that can be one of the foundations of your recovery that you rely on for mental health and accountability. 
  • Making sure that you attend Alcoholics Anonymous or 12-step meetings is something else you can do that will add up over time. There’s value inconsistency when you’re in the process of recovery. 
  • Sobriety is not the same as a personal recovery. Getting sober is an initial step that you start in rehab. Getting sober is undoubtedly hard work and a major achievement, but recovery is about staying sober. You live in your sobriety, and as a result, you change your behavior, patterns, and lifestyle to maintain it.
  • Getting complacent in your personal recovery can be detrimental. You should always be working on it and building on it. This might mean through the fellowship of participating in a 12-step program, continuing therapy, or always learning more about addiction and recovery.
  • Forgiveness is an integral part of recovery for most people—forgiving means asking for forgiveness from other people and forgiving yourself for what happened during your active addiction. You work toward finding peace with other people and hoping they do the same for you. 
  • You’ll often hear that relapse is part of recovery. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Relapse does occur, and you can move past it, but you also have to be confident in your recovery. Don’t operate under the assumption relapse is inevitable.

Addiction Treatment in the San Francisco Area

Before you can begin to live a life of personal recovery, you have to get treatment for your addiction and get sober initially. We can help, and if you’d like to learn more, we’d like the chance to answer your questions. Silicon Valley Recovery can provide treatment options if you have a co-occurring disorder as well, call 408-547-4089 to learn more.