What Does Successful Recovery Really Look Like?

Addiction recovery is about creating a safe and stable way of life. But that doesn’t mean successful recovery will look the same for everyone. Treatment helps people learn more about themselves.    Some need support but can also work most days at their job, while others  may find more success with inpatient treatment. As each person taps into their unique nature, their recovery journey emerges. When a person finds a good recovery path, addiction treatment becomes a meaningful experience.    Here we’ll explore more about what recovery looks like, the role outpatient treatment plays, and how staying connected makes a difference.  

Recovery is not a linear journey

Recovery isn’t about being healed or finding a one-stop solution. It doesn’t happen in a straight line, and there’s no single destination. Instead, the path winds between periods of wellness and instability.      

Recovery takes time and dedication

It’s hard to say exactly how many attempts a person will need to reach a stable recovery. The factors that lead to substance misuse are complex. It can take time to untangle the layers of emotion and behavior patterns. And even when things improve, it may take a while to get used to the changes.   A recent study looked more closely at serious recovery attempts. Researchers found that 50%of the study participants needed two attempts at recovery. This number represents the majority of people needing treatment. A smaller group of people with more severe symptoms needed more attempts to reach stability.    Addiction is sometimes portrayed as a constant cycle of relapse and recovery. For those with extra challenges, the path to recovery may take more detours. But recovery is possible with time, dedication and support.  

Recovery is a winding road

Many people have a misperception of what recovery looks like. It isn’t a final destination where everything finally works out. Instead, it’s a winding path, unique to each person making the journey.  Here are some of the factors that could affect a person’s recovery path:

  • Opportunities for support and treatment
  • Economic stability, both personally and the community 
  • Family relationships and dynamics
  • Moving into a different neighborhood or community
  • Job status 
  • Relationship changes (starting, ending, more conflict, etc.)
  • Growing a family
  • Death and loss

  Researchers are trying to understand more about what recovery looks like for people. One study narrowed it down to the following: substance use, material resources, outlook on life, self-care and relationships.    Recovery is about handling life changes, whether positive or negative. When someone in recovery feels stress, they may be triggered to use again.    Even if they successfully avoid using, they may feel a lot of emotional strain. It could look like a period of depression, anger or anxiety. It could also emerge as a harmful behavior that used to occur when they were using.    Awareness of symptoms and social support can help nip these problems early. It’s important to stay watchful of issues that could progress to active substance use.    But it may still happen anyway. It’s not a sign of failure, even if it may look that way. Instead, it’s an opportunity to observe and learn about what the person needs.    Things change over a lifetime. So sometimes, a person’s recovery needs change, too. And the way they might find out is during a moment of relapse.    These ups and downs are normal and part of the process. It’s a reminder that recovery is a journey, not a destination.   

Treatment can help along the way

Treatment is part of the recovery process for many people. Skilled therapists and others in treatment can provide support. They can also provide guidance as a person moves through recovery.   Addiction treatment doesn’t last forever. But it can be an essential part of a person’s journey. It gives people a chance to learn about themselves.    They can create a way of life without substance use. Here are a few essential benefits that treatment can provide someone in recovery.    

Getting to the root of addiction 

Therapists provide a safe place for a person to understand their addiction issues. Substance misuse grows out of emotional pain. By the time their misuse develops into an addiction, their pain has spread to other areas of their life.    Getting to the root of addiction can be challenging. But with guidance and support, treatment therapists can help a person step into recovery.  

Learning how to start and maintain recovery

Therapists teach people how to make progress and maintain recovery. They teach everyone a variety of coping skills, both in individual and group sessions. Group therapy helps people learn about social support and relationships.    And therapists help each person understand their unique recovery needs. With this knowledge and experience, a person can build their own recovery pathway.      

Learning how to prevent and manage relapse 

Relapse is common for people in recovery. While not everyone may experience relapse, it’s not a sign of failure. Each situation is unique and may offer clues about a person’s recovery needs.   A relapse prevention plan can help a person stay alert to warning signs and triggers. A prevention plan isn’t a guarantee for success. But it can help a person stay on their recovery path when they feel like giving up.  

Outpatient Treatment Plays a Vital Role in Addiction Recovery 

Outpatient substance abuse therapy is offered in three main formats. We’ll briefly describe each here before explaining how they can help.

  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) – IOP treatment is held for a few hours at a time several times a week. There are no overnight stays, and people often continue working or going to school during treatment.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – PHP treatment includes treatment sessions lasting most of the day on almost every day of the week. It is the most time-intensive program, but there are no overnight stays.
  • Medications – MOUD stands for Medications for Opioid Use Disorder. These medications help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. MAT stands for Medications Assisted Treatment, a more general term that includes any medication used with addiction treatment. 

Why Outpatient Treatments Work 

Inpatient rehab is the most intense form of addiction treatment. And for many people, this format works well. Because it’s the highest level of care, some perceive that inpatient treatment is usually the best option. But it’s not the only treatment method that gets results.    Successful recovery can look different for everyone. For some, it means staying local and choosing outpatient services. Here are some reasons outpatient substance abuse treatment programs may be a good fit.

Recovery using MOUD may not be what you expect

Some people have trouble accepting MOUD as a legitimate treatment. MOUD is sometimes viewed as swapping one addiction for another. If a person uses any substance, even as a treatment, some believe a person isn’t truly in recovery. This limiting viewpoint defines recovery as a one-size-fits-all process.    Prescription medication isn’t what most people expect. It’s not the usual approach for addiction to alcohol, marijuana or other substances. But MOUD is an evidence-based approach that saves lives   It interrupts and changes a person’s physical response to opioids. Managing this response is a crucial part of helping a person recover in other areas of their life.  Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be intense. A person using opioid substances will often quickly relapse if they stop using. Even if someone wants to stop using, the withdrawal period may be tough to get through.    Withdrawal symptoms can be intensely uncomfortable. Without a safe substitute like MOUD, the only way to feel better is to begin using opioids again.    MOUD keeps withdrawal symptoms in check as the person builds their recovery path. They may use MOUD for an extended time or slowly taper off when recovery is stable and safe.  

Getting involved and staying connected with recovery groups  

Completing treatment is a major hurdle. But it’s only one step at the start of the recovery process. Aftercare has a significant impact on a person’s recovery outcome. Getting support from social networks can help.    Alumni groups and recovery communities play a vital role. Support from loved ones is important. But these people have walked the path of addiction and recovery. They keep the “why” behind their recovery in full view.    When people get involved in one of these groups, they bond with each other. These connections create a supportive atmosphere for recovery. Everyone becomes invested in positive change and progress.    The personal bonds forged in these groups help a person’s recovery identity emerge. People stay encouraged when everyone identifies with positive growth.   While each recovery group may have unique qualities, they share a similar foundation. They promote and strengthen recovery with support.  

Successful addiction recovery is personal

Successful recovery means something different to each person on the journey. Social support and treatment are part of the picture for many people. And innovative treatments are rapidly changing the look of recovery, too. What matters most is the difference it makes in a person’s life as they move away from substance misuse.  If you or a loved one need to learn more about addiction treatment and recovery, call us at our P.A.T.H. clinic. We can help. Contact us today at 713.528.3709.

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