Recovery vs. recovery – what might sound like a confusing comparison at first makes a lot more sense when you consider the difference between the process and the program. Recovery programs and the recovery process are two different things, in the sense that the program runs for a set amount of time, but the process is a lifelong commitment. This commitment is a commitment to sobriety, but more accurately, it’s a commitment to never again let drug use cloud your ability to live your own life and make good choices.
Yes, recovery never truly ends, but that doesn’t mean you’re locked in an exhausting battle with addiction for as long as you live. Just like living with an increased risk of heart disease, see it as a condition that requires you to adjust your lifestyle in such a way to avoid potentially disastrous symptoms. Early recovery – including the recovery programs you’re going to go through – will center around lining up and implementing these different lifestyle changes. The recovery process is about sticking to them – and that gets easier with time. There will be days when you wake up, enjoy your day, and go to bed without once thinking about using. But it may take some time.
Why Recovery Is a Lifelong Process
To be sober, you must not use drugs. To spend a lifetime in sobriety, you must not use drugs for a lifetime. Recovery is a lifelong process. The ‘end’ is when you pass away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to be happy with who you are and content with the way things are going long before you ever have to die.
The language around recovery as a lifelong process simply exists to remind you that there is no real way to ‘solve’ an addiction – but you can turn it into a practical non-issue. There is no way to go back in time and undo what was done, and what has happened. You will live on to carry your days as an addict with you, but they don’t have to be carried in guilt. You can use them as days that, over time, became lessons on how to live a better life. You can vow to use your sobriety to be better for yourself and others. You can use what has happened as inspiration to help others avoid similar fates and do better than you could imagine. You can leave the world a better place, and leave your family doing better than ever, despite everything that once happened.
Rather than seeking to resolve or defeat addiction, think of it as a past you can live with, and learn from.
Recovery Programs and Recovery
Recovery programs are always short-term, designed to help someone in early recovery navigate the pitfalls and challenges of being sober. Rehab programs usually only last about 30-60 days. Most other programs are roughly similar in length, from a few weeks to a month or two. Sober living homes are the exception, but they don’t act as a program – instead, they’re more of a walk-in facility where addicts can willingly reside for as long as they need to, to get a better grip on their life, work with therapists outside of the home, and reflect on where they should go from here.
Recovery programs are a good way to start the recovery process, simply because most addicts need a lot of guidance in the early stages of recovery, and that is exactly what recovery programs offer – a guided path, sometimes even in a step-by-step format, to work through some of the common early issues with sobriety like withdrawal problems, post-acute withdrawal, emotional turmoil, potential early-day relapses, and more.
Recovery Is A Choice, Not A Streak
Recovery does not end when you relapse. Recovery ends when you give up. This is an important tidbit, because while a relapse does technically mean you’ve ‘given up’ in the sense that you used drugs again, relapses are too common to simply be explained away as a lack of motivation or a feeble will. They’re a part of the process, and you may have many other moments of temptation and deep cravings (without relapsing) before it all comes to pass. If you relapse, but still want to be sober, and genuinely work towards it (by getting right back into rehab or visiting a sober living home), then you’re effectively still in recovery.
Recovery is a choice, a commitment towards staying clean for the sake of a better life. It doesn’t start and stop whenever you stumble on the way to long-term sobriety.
The Sober Lifestyle
So, what defines a sober lifestyle? Sobriety, of course – but there’s more to it, as there are certain characteristics to a successful sober lifestyle that contribute to maintaining sobriety.
For one, it’s important to prioritize your mental and physical health. Replace drug use with a balanced diet, more time spent walking around or getting exercise, and time committed towards a healthy work-life balance. Regularly go see a therapist and discuss things that trouble you. Keep a journal or take the time to reflect on your day/week at the end of a day/week.
Always have a goal. It doesn’t need to be big, and smaller goals are actually better. The more achievable the goal, the better. Tailor it to your own capacity, rather than trying to mirror someone else. It could be a goal related to your career, or to personal aspirations of fitness, or towards creating better habits.
Finally, continue working on your recovery. Go to meetings and talk about being sober. Help friends or family members going through similar troubles. Speak about addiction at any available speaking engagements. Write about it. Discuss it with others.
You’re Not in It Alone
Recovery isn’t possible alone. Whether it’s professional help or help from your friends and family, it takes compassion from others to successfully make it through the hardships of recovery.
That doesn’t in any way detract from the personal achievement that is overcoming addiction, but it’s meant to remind you that it’s okay to ask help, and sometimes, we just need it. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace the fact that you aren’t alone, and that there are people out there who care enough to see you live a better life.