A Look at Recovery vs Sobriety

To those outside the process of treating substance addiction, sobriety and recovery may seem like the same thing. While they are related parts of the addiction healing process, there is an important distinction that is vital to a successful addiction program. Chelsea Korzenieski, a recovery coach for the Marshfield Clinic Health System AmeriCorp, describes sobriety as the day-to-day choice not to drink or use. She says of recovery, on the other hand, “When you have one or two days sober, you want to get to recovery. This is where you’re living your life, looking long-term with goals to make mental and physical changes to set yourself up for success.”

Sobriety, in other words, is the choice to abstain from substance use at any given moment and is certainly vital to long-term addiction treatment. However, choices to not use, to avoid triggers such as the people and places associated with use, are only a beginning to addiction recovery. The true recovery process is about building a lifestyle that helps maintain sobriety. Healing comes from developing positive physical and mental habits, from exploring the situations that trigger use, from exploring the pain and dark spaces that led to substance use.

Statistics suggest that recovery is hard enough. An American Addiction Centers study reveals that “more than 85% of individuals relapse and return to drug use within the first year following treatment.” The study also shows that two-thirds of those in recovery relapse within the first few weeks or months. But as one recovery specialist suggests, “individuals who relapsed stopped practicing their program of recovery. Over time, their meeting count slipped. A person may have stopped calling their sponsor. Rather than put themselves in “the middle of the herd” and join in a group of peers, they isolate themselves. As a result of their isolation, they turn toward old habits and triggers.”

Recovery then is the long-term journey of developing the habits that help maintain sobriety and that improve the life of the recovering addict. Traits of a strong recovery program include developing:

  • Self-care practices, such as getting proper nutrition, getting enough sleep, exercising, and more;
  • Self-awareness;
  • Practicing mindfulness;
  • Stable relationships;
  • Healthy boundaries;
  • Good communication skills;
  • An ability to recognize triggers;

There are a number of roads to recovery, including 12-step programs, spiritual programs, behavioral therapy, holistic healing, and personal development workshops. Whatever your choice, understanding that sobriety is only the beginning of a process that leads to the life choices of recovery will help with long term healing from substance addiction.

Ivan Young is a writer for Stethoscope.com, one of the leading resources on the best stethoscopes for doctors.

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