You've probably heard addiction recovery describes as "a lifelong commitment." Here are some experts on what that really means.
Addiction is a chronic, but treatable, disease.
“An analogy could be diabetes,” Loretta Lawson-Munsey, Substance Abuse Education Office & Collegiate Recovery Center Coordinator at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Once controlled either by lifestyle changes and/or medication one cannot return to their prior lifestyle.”
Like with any other chronic condition, maintaining addiction recovery requires consistent upkeep in the form of support groups, check-ins with mental health professionals, and being honest with yourself and others when you need help. It also means changing the aspects of your life that could trigger relapse.
“Recovery involves a change of lifestyle; what you do, where you go, who you associate with, and how you think, [which] is harder than it sounds,” Dr. Brad Lander, a clinical psychologist and addiction medicine specialist in the Department of Psychiatry at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says.
Recovery requires support.
Maintaining sobriety after substance abuse treatment requires support from others. No one can do it alone. According to Evan Haines, a licensed counselor and co-founder of Alo House Recovery Centers in Southern California, seeking psychiatric help, getting physical activity, connecting with nature, and finding community can help.
“Although we can so easily forget, humans are very social animals; we are starved for a feeling of connection with one another, and require it for our sense of well-being,” Haines says. “Self-help support groups, [Alcoholics Anonymous] and other 12-step support groups are basically free.”
What can harm recovery?
Seeking perfection, judgement from others, and feeling overwhelmed are just some of the things that can impede recovery. It's important to remember that recovery is different for each individual, the experts say.
“I have seen a lot of people try 12-step meetings and go back out because they don’t feel connected and have been told that that is the only way to recover,” Meredith Futernick, a licensed counselor in Florida and Colorado, says. “We’re lucky to live in a time that there are so many different paths to recovery."