What Does it Mean to Be in Recovery?

What Does it Mean to Be in Recovery?

To recover something means to take back possession of a thing that was lost or stolen. When you begin treatment for your addiction, you are working to recover parts of yourself that have been lost or stolen by addiction. Being in recovery means reclaiming your autonomy, your health, and your true self.

To be in recovery refers to an active process of taking the necessary steps to stay sober and improve your quality of life. Being in recovery means making a conscious choice every day to engage in behaviors that promote your physical and mental wellbeing. Recovery begins with seeking help for your addiction, continues with following your treatment plan, and extends through maintaining a sober lifestyle.

The First Stage of Recovery – Seeking Treatment

Seeking TreatmentThe first stage of being in recovery is to seek treatment. This requires admitting to yourself that you have a problem and actively reaching out to get help.

To start recovery off on the right path, seek treatment from a recovery center that uses a holistic approach to healing. This type of center uses a well-rounded strategy for recovery that gives you tools and resources that help you manage your addiction in the later stages of recovery. During this initial stage, you may feel vulnerable and scared, but being in recovery is allowing others to help you and admitting to yourself that you need assistance with your addiction.

Detoxing your body from the addictive substance is an immediate concern and can be physically painful and emotionally challenging. You may have cravings and feel like quitting; however, being in recovery means committing to getting better, so stick with it.

Medically assisted detox programs are available and offer an alternative to cold-turkey withdrawal symptoms. After detoxing, your treatment program focuses on creating a predictable routine, managing your emotions, and establishing trust with the recovery center staff. This sets a solid foundation for your success in the middle stages of being in recovery.

The Second Stage of Recovery – Working the Program

The second stage of recovery is working the program. You have made it past the physical detox and initial emotional hurdle, but now it is time for deeper work. The main focus of the second stage of recovery is intensive therapeutic work that focuses on helping you manage your emotions and developing healthy coping mechanisms.

With effective one-on-one or group therapy sessions, you and your therapist tap into the thought patterns and behaviors that lead you to addiction and have kept you trapped in the cycle. In addition to exploring the whys of your addictive behaviors, you learn how to identify your triggers and develop a prevention plan that you can turn to when you feel the urge to use.

As part of this process, you are encouraged to develop healthy behaviors such as eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, following a routine, exercising, meditating, and finding a hobby or passion are life skills that you learn during group or individual therapy. It is essential to embrace progress and lean into the program.

At the beginning of this stage, your therapist visits occur frequently, usually once per week. As you begin to explore complex issues, weekly visits allow your therapist to quickly address new emotions and help you manage them. As you gain emotional independence and begin enacting coping strategies, your visits may move to a bi-weekly schedule and finally once per month.

The Final Stage of Recovery – Recovery Maintenance

Recovery MaintenanceThe final stage of being in recovery comes after you complete your treatment program. You have removed the addictive substances from your body and intensively worked on your mental wellbeing. You have learned how to manage your emotions, recognize when you feel triggered to use, and have replaced your old addictive cycle with new and healthy behaviors.

You are now in the maintenance stage of recovery. It is time to implement everything you learned during your treatment to live your life free of addiction. This is often a scary time during the recovery process because you leave a structured environment and branch out on your own. Being in recovery means taking conscious action towards sobriety and health. Make healthy choices by doing the following:

Continue therapy

Continue seeing a therapist, either with the treatment center or on your own. A therapist helps you continue managing emotions, changing problematic behaviors, and keeping you accountable for recovery.

Maintain a support system

Don’t try to maintain recovery alone. Seek out support systems such as support groups, sober friends and family, and other communities that aid you in making healthy choices.

Respond appropriately to a relapse

Most people in recovery struggle with a relapse at some point. There is usually a building up to a relapse, which begins with a change in emotions, progresses to old thinking patterns and the desire to use, and ends in a physical use of the substance. Identifying a relapse in the early stages helps prevent a full relapse.

If a physical relapse occurs, it is vital to respond in a way that keeps you in recovery. First, recognize and own the relapse. Do not minimize or try to hide it. Seek help with your therapist and support system. Tell them what happened, and allow them to guide you back into treatment if necessary.

Get Started on the Path Of Recovery

Being in recovery is a long, challenging process, but it is necessary to reclaim the parts of yourself that have been lost to being in addiction. To start your recovery, seek the right treatment center that offers a holistic, multi-faceted approach to healing. Embrace the program and lean into behavior or other types of therapy that are offered. Finally, remember that being in recovery means making the daily choice to live a sober, healthy, and full life.


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.

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