Is there path to addiction recovery that should be followed? What steps have to be taken, and how long before recovery works? Is just stopping use enough? How about life after rehab or detox, or even sober living? Addiction, now called Substance or Alcohol Use Disorder is confusing. Here’s some of what we know.

30 years of research shows there are many paths to recovery, as cited in the Surgeon General’s 2016 Report on Addiction. But there are some essential steps that can’t be skipped.

The Hunt is On For Protocols That Work

It is a fact that substance and alcohol use alter brain function. No one wants to become a different person, but substance and alcohol use do just that. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease of brain reward. When using, people do things they never would have done had they not become addicted.

Addiction recovery means old habits need changing

When using stops, however, the negative patterns of behavior do not automatically reverse. People retain the behaviors they learned as substance users, and untreated those behaviors will remain throughout life. This can be confusing for people who long for a quick fix and believe rehab, sober living, or outpatient treatment can reverse the substance user’s survival patterns that no longer work for them. The fact that people don’t automatically return to their previous selves also poses a perplexing problem for researchers. What are the proven treatments that will end both substance use and the behaviors that accompany it? There aren’t any. Recovery is a process.

Necessary Process For Addiction Remission, Thought, and Behavior Change

  • Stopping use
  • Healing the brain
  • Learning the language of recovery
  • Following a recovery program
  • Creating new habits in a drug-free lifestyle
  • Establishing healthy relationships
  • Becoming accountable and honest
  • Managing money and time
  • Working at a paying job to restore reliability and trust

8 Steps To Addiction Recovery

  1. Detox in a safe environment.
  2. Assessment of substance and alcohol users to determine long term treatment needs. This could be a therapist, physician, psychiatrist addiction specialist, or a combination of providers.
  3. Make a treatment plan. After evaluation, a treatment plan should be developed to reflect the length of time it actually takes to learn reliability accountability and life skills.
  4. A  treatment plan might include being in patient at a rehab, followed by intensive out patient treatment while living in a sober residence. It might include detox, followed by intensive out-patient treatment for six months or longer, followed by weekly therapy and other sessions. It might several years in sober living communities with group and other therapies. Create reasonable goals and expectations.
  5. Healing the brain takes several years, so don’t think short term treatment will solve the problem.
  6. All treatment programs should include some kind of 12 step group (whether NA, AA, Smart Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, Al Anon, or other group that teaches the language of recovery. Groups don’t not just help people to stop using, they also serve as a guide to behavior and attitude change.
  7. Sober living usually has a work requirement so getting and keeping a stress free job is essential.
  8. When trust and accountability have been established, work is in place, and healthy relationships are in effect, those in recovery still need ongoing support through the rest of their lives. While treatment may end, and the disease is in remission, it still requires lifelong management.

To learn more about each phase of recovery,  use the fly-away menu (often called hamburger) to explore the recovery topics and categories in ROR.


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Leslie Glass

Leslie Glass became a recovery advocate and co-founder of Reach Out Recovery in 2011, encouraged by her daughter Lindsey who had struggled with substances as a teen and young adult. Learning how to manage the family disease of addiction with no roadmap to follow inspired the mother and daughter to create Reach Out Recovery's website to help others experiencing the same life-threatening problems. Together they produced the the 2016 ASAM Media Award winning documentary, The Secret World of Recovery, and the teen prevention documentary, The Silent Majority, distributed by American Public Television. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. In her career, Leslie has worked in advertising, publishing, and magazines as a writer of both fiction and non fiction. She is the author of 9 bestselling crime novels, featuring NYPD Dt.Sgt. April Woo. Leslie has has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education and as a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation. For from 1990 to 2017, Leslie was the Trustee of the Leslie Glass Foundation.

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