What Does Addiction Recovery Mean?

What Does It Mean to Be In Recovery From Addiction?

Addiction RecoveryAddiction does all it can to stand between you and your happiness. When addiction is in place, all of your experiences are marked by sadness, anger, shame, and fear.

If addiction is the problem, addiction recovery is the solution. Recovery is a long and strenuous journey as you pull yourself up from a low position, but the journey is always essential.

Because recovery is an extremely individualized process, the addiction recovery methods one person employs may differ from the methods best for you. Fortunately, many programs share similar features, objectives, and goals allowing commonalities to present.

Start by Understanding the Issues

Addiction may sound like a simple and straightforward concept, but the topic is quite intricate with multiple terms and language used to combine and separate various conditions.

No matter what path to addiction recovery you pursue, the early stages usually begin with gaining a better understanding of substance abuse issues and how they affect your life and well-being.

Are You Addicted to Substances?

What is an addiction? How can you tell if you are addicted if you don’t even know what it means to be addicted?

Having an addiction means your daily focus, effort, and motivations are aimed at getting and using your substance of choice. You will continue on this path in an obsessive way even if very negative or dangerous outcomes are likely.

Addictions usually apply to substances like drugs and alcohol, but new ways of thinking believe people can be addicted to specific behaviors like gambling, shopping, and spending time online. Rather than a strong desire for the substance, these people feel compelled to play blackjack, buy things, and log onto their favorite online video game or constantly engaged in social media apps.

Some groups avoid using the word addiction, and instead, they use the phrase substance use disorder to better label the condition. You can identify a substance use disorder by their signs and symptoms including:

  • Using a substance for long periods of time or in larger amounts than intended
  • The strong desire to cut down, manage, or end use without success
  • Spending significant amounts of time trying to get, use, or recovery from the effects of the substance
  • Having strong urges (cravings) for the substance when none is available
  • Failing to meet your expectations at home, work, or school because you are too focused on or influenced by the substance
  • Use continues even when it damages your relationships with family and friends
  • You give up the social activities you previously enjoyed and choose to spend more time using
  • Use continues even when you know it could result in serious mental health or physical health injury

The American Psychiatric Association requires two or more of these symptoms in a 12-month period to qualify as a substance use disorder, but only one symptom could indicate a new or worsening problem leading to addiction.

Are You Dependent on Substances?

With substance abuse, addiction is a significant concern, but physical dependence can be just as serious. Physical dependence means you have become so used to the substance, your body needs it to feel well and functioning normally.

Physical dependence is closely tied to tolerance, the process of your body needing more of a substance to produce the wanted effects. Before you could notice the effects of a single beer, but now you need a six-pack to feel buzzed because of your growing tolerance for alcohol.

If you don’t feel well without your substance, you might be dependent on it. Dependency and addiction are found together frequently but can exist independently like in the case of prescribed medication. You can take medication as prescribed for several months and build a dependence on it without being addicted to it.

The Risks of Withdrawal

The issue making physical dependence so important is withdrawal. At times, the only way to know if someone is dependent on a substance is to observe them when use ends.

People who are physically dependent will experience many physical and psychological symptoms called withdrawal when use stops. Withdrawal symptoms can be mildly distressing for some and very dangerous for others depending on the type of substance, frequency, dosage, and duration of use.

Overwhelming cravings for the substance are common during withdrawal, which can pressure them to restart and continue use. The cycle of addiction, dependence, and withdrawal is challenging to break.

By knowing what to expect during addiction, dependence, and withdrawal, you gain power and control over your situation. This is why understanding your state will help you recover from addiction.

Addiction Treatment Begins with Assessment

Looking inward at your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors regarding addiction is a complicated process as well. Dependence skews your perceptions, so you believe only you are correct, and the others around you are wrong.

Having faulty points-of-view distorts the way you view your addiction. Additionally, it can prevent you from recognizing your addiction at all.

In situations like this, a thorough assessment performed by a knowledgeable mental health or addiction professional can offer a better understanding of your condition. A formal evaluation will diagnosis your status as well as outline possible risks and benefits of ending use and beginning treatment.

The best evaluations are comprehensive, which means they account for all aspects of your life affecting addiction. A detailed assessment will inspect your:

  • Mental health symptoms
  • Substance abuse
  • Employment and educational status
  • Medical/ physical health symptoms
  • Legal involvement
  • Financial stability
  • Housing and transportation
  • Family relationships

Without knowing your entire situation, it will be impossible to accurately grasp your needs or provide the best types of treatment. Once the evaluation is complete, the professional refers you to the level of treatment that matches your needs, supports, and stressors.

What Are Your Addiction Recovery Program Options?

There are many substance abuse treatment methods and levels. Levels usually refer to the intensity and goals of treatment with options including:


Frequently, detoxification is the first step towards substance abuse treatment. It is a set of strategies employed to reduce the risks associated with withdrawals. Professional detox helps allow the body to process and remove drugs from the system in a safe and supportive environment.

During detox, medical professional may prescribe and administer medications to make the process more comfortable. If detox is too distressing, you’ll be compelled to restart or continue drug use.

Detoxification occurs over a few days in a hospital-like setting, or it can take place over several months with visits to a doctor’s office. Detox, like other steps of drug addiction treatment, is a highly individualized practice tailored to your needs.

Inpatient/Residential Treatment

People who complete detoxification or people that do not need withdrawal management may begin their substance abuse treatment in an inpatient/residential setting. These treatments refer to any program that requires you to sleep at the treatment center during your stay.

Inpatient settings usually resemble a hospital atmosphere and last for a shorter amount of time. Residential treatments can look and feel more like a home with durations of treatment lasting for months or more.

By removing you from your stressful environment, inpatient/residential treatments permit you the time and freedom from responsibilities to focus only on recovery. The staff and other residents will guide you through the early stages of recovery by teaching you about the dangers of substance abuse and healthy coping skills to better manage your stressors.

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