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What Is Addiction Recovery?

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

There are many different ways people define addiction recovery. If you’ve quit substance abuse completely and abstained for a long period, some may say you’ve achieved a “recovered” status from your addiction. Addiction recovery is an ongoing process that takes a lifelong commitment to sobriety.

If you’ve just begun your sobriety journey from drug or alcohol abuse, congratulations on starting a path to addiction recovery that changes your overall well-being.

Approximately 50 percent of adults with a substance use disorder (SUD) stay sober over the first year — some refer to this status as “in remission.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) refers to addiction recovery as a process for change and moving towards a life of wellness.

When a person is in addiction recovery, their entire wellness is part of the recovery process and healing. Recovering from any substance use disorder requires the individual to identify a reason to quit, have the will and determination to recover, and have a strong support system.

Addiction recovery affects your mental health, physical health, and social relationships with loved ones and family members. Addiction recovery can be extremely challenging, calling for self-love and self-care. When you choose to leave your drug addiction or dependence on alcohol in the past, you choose a life where you can better reach your full potential.

Let’s discuss addiction recovery fully.

Stages of Addiction Recovery

Initially, the thought of addiction recovery may feel overwhelming; for some, it can feel like an impossible feat. We’re here to tell you that it’s possible to beat addiction, and you can even feel better than you ever have, finding the strength to live your best life.

With any challenging goal in life, breaking it down into smaller tasks can make it feel more manageable. The same is true with addiction recovery.

Addiction specialists have broken addiction recovery into five stages.

  • Awareness

  • Consideration

  • Exploring recovery options

  • Early days of recovery

  • Active recovery and maintenance


During the awareness stage of addiction, the person acknowledges they have a problem. Admitting to the problem of addiction is the first step to addiction recovery.


At this stage, the person reflects on how their addiction has impacted their life, including relationships and physical, mental, spiritual, and possibly financial health. They may not have taken any action yet, but they contemplate how serious their addiction is and grasp how it has changed their lives.

Exploring Recovery Options

At this point, the individual is researching options, such as treatment plans, potential rehabilitation facilities, and support groups. They’re focused on making a plan and exploring resources available to them.

Early Days of Recovery

Whether the person is entering an inpatient facility for addiction treatment, simply starting AA, or downloading a sobriety app, at this point, they are putting their action plan into place.

Active Recovery and Maintenance

This stage is about the person using the knowledge, tools, and coping mechanisms they’ve learned to live a life of sobriety. This is an ongoing process, and using resources, such as lifelong support from a sobriety app, can be a great tool for maintenance.

Where To Get Help for Addiction Recovery

Once you’ve decided to get help for addiction recovery, you may be overwhelmed with options about where to get started. Or you may not know where to get the right kind of help for your specific situation. Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered, and the good news is there are plenty of options.

Depending on the level of addiction, there are many treatment programs available. Your healthcare provider may refer to you a specific treatment facility for substance use disorder treatment, and you’ll want to consider if inpatient or outpatient treatment options are best for you.

You know yourself best, and you’re in control of your addiction treatment and finding the right substance abuse treatment plan that works for you. Some other options include help groups for addiction, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which adheres to a 12-step program and philosophy, and Narcotics Anonymous for drug use, including opioid addiction.

Sobriety Support In Your Pocket

Many people recovering from addiction are turning to more convenient ways to get sober and stay on the path to sobriety. For some, AA meetings or outpatient treatment facilities are inconvenient for busy schedules, obligations, and daily life. Sobriety support can be as close by and convenient as being in your pocket.

Did you know you can download the fastest-growing sobriety app today and get help and support immediately? Meet Sober Sidekick.

No insurance required, no referral necessary, no cost to you, and no waiting for an appointment to get started and take back control of your life.

Sober Sidekick is an app that’s free but offers premium features to help you get sober or maintain your new sense of sobriety. No matter where you are on your journey of sobriety, the app is always there for you.

Sober Sidekick is a free app with over 150,000 people in a supportive online community on a recovery journey.

Check out some of the key features of the Sobriety Sidekick app below!

  • Sobriety counter

  • 24/7 live AA meetings online

  • Messaging from community members

  • Daily motivations

  • Help and medical advice from health professionals

Withdrawal and Detox

Heavy and sustained alcohol or drug use may require a treatment center that can help you through detox and cravings with the help of health professionals trained to get you sober and healthy.

In cases of severe addiction, attempting a detox on your own can be dangerous for your health. You may have significant withdrawal symptoms and may require the care of health specialists for holistic recovery support during this time.

No matter how severe or mild your addiction is, or even if you’re getting sober curious, and you feel you’ve been having too many drinks that are becoming a bad habit, it’s good to arm yourself with information, such as the principles of addiction recovery.

Let’s cover the principles of recovery and how these principles are the core of addiction recovery and can help you through every stage of your sobriety journey.

Principles of Addiction Recovery

Have you ever heard of the principles of addiction recovery? Almost two decades ago, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) gathered a cohort of medical professionals and researchers to draft a list called the principles of recovery.

  1. Self Direction. You’re in the driver’s seat of your recovery. You know your needs better than anyone else. You determine what your recovery journey looks like.

  2. Individualized and Person-Centered. Each person has a unique set of circumstances that includes their substance abuse history, varying personal needs, and different cultural backgrounds that can affect how someone responds to any treatment. The most effective treatment takes the individual’s needs into account. One size does not fit all.

  3. Empowerment. You can arm yourself with information about the options for addiction recovery and be empowered in decision-making throughout the journey to sobriety.

  4. Holistic. Recovery from addiction involves a person’s mind, body, and spirit. Because your whole self is impacted by recovery, treatment is holistic.

  5. Non-Linear. Addiction recovery doesn’t fit neatly into a step-by-step package that goes 100 percent according to plan. Acknowledging this is key from the onset of the journey to recovery. There will be setbacks along the way, and part of addiction recovery is personal growth, which is non-linear and continuous.

  6. Strengths. Utilizing and building upon a person’s strengths provides a core foundation during recovery.

  7. Peer Support. Peer-to-Peer support is one of the most powerful aspects of recovery from addiction and treatment and plays a vital role in the recovery process.

  8. Respect. Stigmas about addiction exist. Cultivating acceptance and understanding by peers, treatment care systems, communities, and society as a whole is important in addiction recovery.

  9. Responsibility. Self-care and the addiction recovery journey are the responsibility of the individual.

  10. Hope. At its core, addiction recovery must always maintain the feeling of hope, despite setbacks and obstacles. Hope is centered around the idea that a better, brighter, sober future is possible.

Is Recovery the Same as Abstinence?

Many people confuse recovery with abstinence or use the two terms interchangeably. Just because someone has stopped drinking or abusing drugs doesn’t mean they’re recovered or even in recovery. Some people stop drinking for a few months to prove to themselves they can go without a drink or drug of choice.

Abstaining from substance abuse simply means going without something for some time. The truth is abusing drugs or alcohol, especially over a long period, can damage your mind and body.

Understanding the difference between recovery and abstinence can be helpful to someone beginning their sobriety journey because it can provide a good idea of what to expect along the journey, that setbacks are normal, and that addiction recovery involves more than just quitting drugs or alcohol.

Recovery requires ongoing work that’s a process of change. Learning coping mechanisms, managing cravings, and creating new healthy habits for a positive lifestyle are all part of addiction recovery.

Relapse and Addiction Recovery

The short answer is yes. Relapse from drug or alcohol addiction is common, evidenced by the numbers. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of people relapse at least once after quitting drug abuse or alcohol addiction.

Relapse often occurs early in recovery but sometimes can happen five or 10 years down the road after a long stretch of a sobriety journey. Emotions and trigger events can play a significant role in addiction recovery.

Often the people hardest on those addicted to drugs or alcohol aren’t family members, partners, or loved ones but the addicts themselves. Emotions such as shame, guilt, and fear or relapse can wreak havoc on your emotional sense of well-being.

People who have suffered from addiction often suffer silently with their own thoughts of who they are and who they wish they were. This emotional toll, combined with the everyday stress of life and the cravings that can come and go when you least expect them, can be a recipe for relapse.

If you’ve relapsed or are concerned about relapsing, know you’re not alone. People relapse for many reasons, but two common reasons are a lack of support and not exercising self-care.

Finding a supportive sober community early in the sobriety journey is key, and self-care comes in many forms and is often overlooked as part of addiction recovery.


Here’s a summary of key points to remember with addiction recovery:

  • The importance of support during addiction recovery can’t be overstated. Your circle of support may include family members, loved ones, a life partner, and more formal support groups.

  • Understanding the five stages of addiction recovery helps to break down the process of change and recovery into smaller tasks, and makes recovery feel more achievable.

  • Using the principles of recovery is helpful in outlining the true meaning of addiction recovery, and considering the whole person during the recovery process.

  • Recovery and abstinence are not the same thing.

Many in addiction recovery are turning to the app, Sober Sidekick. It’s a free app you can download on your phone and it has over 150,000 people in recovery from a variety of addictions, including drug and alcohol use. Suffering alone is a tough road in addiction recovery, and at Sober Sidekick, we know that isolation is the enemy of sobriety.

You’re in the driver’s seat in your recovery. Don’t put sobriety off another day.


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