What’s the Difference Between Being Recovered, Being in Recovery, and Recovering?

What’s the Difference Between Being Recovered, Being in Recovery, and Recovering?

More than 21 million Americans suffer from at least one addiction, while numerous people tend to abuse multiple addictive substances. Of this staggering number, only 10% get help to achieve full control of the addiction without future relapse. And nearly 85% of people in recovery – the process of becoming and staying sober – relapse within the first year.

The road from addiction to being recovered is a long, challenging process. Just as there are many reasons for becoming an addict, there are many methods for treating the issue. Unfortunately, not every person responds to the same treatment plan.

Understanding the reason behind the addiction is the first step from being in recovery to being recovered. Once you know the triggers that influence sobriety, you’re more equipped to handle the pressures without turning to your vice.

Right Path uses multiple compassionate approaches to help patients go from addiction to a full recovery and a sober future.

Recovery: What’s the Process?

Addiction is an evolving disease that affects every aspect of your life and the people in it. Quite frequently, addiction goes hand-in-hand with underlying conditions like untreated mental disorders, such as PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), or Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

Before you can enjoy a life of sobriety without the temptation or fear of relapse, you have to come to terms with the issues or causes of your addiction.

On the road to becoming sober, you’ll go through three steps of recovery: Being in recovery, recovering, and being recovered.

Being in Recovery

Being in recovery is the first stage for anyone battling addiction. In this beginning step, you still struggle with the cycle of addiction and may still be using, lapsing, or recently stopped.

The hardest part of starting on the path to addiction recovery is withdrawal symptoms. These physical and psychological symptoms occur as your body struggles to eliminate the harmful substance from your body and detoxify. There are three stages: Early, acute, and post-acute.

For many people, depending on the addiction, the withdrawal phase (which can last from a few days to multiple months) can be so severe, they abandon the idea of getting clean. For this reason, most relapses happen within the first 90 days of sobriety.


The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behaviors defines these extreme reactions as PAWS (Post-acute withdrawal syndrome). PAWS can present with multiple symptoms, which can resemble medical issues like anxiety or mood disorders.

Patients withdrawing from opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines have the highest probability of unfavorable symptoms during the acute phase. These can include agitation, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, mood swings, nausea, vomiting, shakes and tremors, and body aches.

Finding the right combination of treatments increases the chances of successfully kicking your addiction and making it through the post-withdrawal syndrome without relapsing.

Right Path uses a three-part approach: Behavioral therapy, medication-assisted therapy (MAT), and psychotherapy support to treat alcohol and opioid addictions.


Being Recovered

Once you’ve passed through the three stages of the withdrawal phase and embraced sobriety, you’re on the path to recovering.

While you’re in this stage of getting over an addiction, your recovery is a balancing act. You’re living a sober lifestyle, but the craving is still there. Specific triggers can disrupt your recovery and cause you to start using again.

Understanding your triggers – what issues cause you to think about, crave, or use your preferred substance – is crucial for recovering. It can be external factors, such as interpersonal conflict, places, and activities. Or they can be internal, including negative emotions, thought patterns, and feelings.

During this time, it’s crucial to have healthy outlets to keep you focused and determined to stay clean. If your addiction revolves around managing stress or for an escape, you must find a way to manage your emotions to keep you from returning to your habit.

Having a support system, such as a program sponsor, a therapist, or an addictions hotline, is a fantastic tool to help your recovery. However, to successfully beat your addiction, you’ll have to start a new life and may need to abandon old friends, places, and activities you associate with your vice.

If you need information or support for addiction in your location? Call 1-800-662-4357 to reach the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline.

Getting into a structured routine is another valuable tip for recovering. Living a healthier life – emotionally and physically – can inspire you to stay sober. Exercise, meditation, and yoga are excellent outlets during recovery. These activities release endorphins, which make you feel good, and lower stress hormones like cortisol, helping your body self-regulate.

Being Recovered

Right Path Knows RecoveryThe goal of going through recovery is to get and stay sober. Being recovered can mean various things to different people.

For some people, being recovered means no longer experiencing the urge to give in to their addiction. Instead, they’ve gotten clean and now believe sobriety means never using the substance again or relapsing.

But for others, being recovered means having control over their addiction. They’ve learned to moderate consumption so they can partake, such as an alcoholic becoming a social drinker.

Being recovered means that the addiction is no longer in control. You can live a normal, fully-functioning life without relapsing.

Right Path Knows Recovery

Getting through the stages of recovery when trying to overcome an addiction is a long road that requires dedication, self-control, and patience. Unfortunately, many people experience one or more relapses before achieving full recovery.

The best success is when you use a customized treatment plan that incorporates multiple aspects. Right Path uses a multi-faceted approach using medication-assisted therapy, psychotherapy, and extensive support networks to help users through being in recovery, recovering, and being recovered.

Written by Sergey Zhitar, MD Medical Director

Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.