Common Stages of Recovery from Drug Addiction
Unlike a broken bone that once fixed is healed for good, research has confirmed that addiction is a chronic brain disease. There is always hope for recovery through education, treatment and daily work. Millions of people have managed to learn to live a healthy and fulling life while managing the disease and understanding that there is not a cure for it.
Addiction recovery is a lifelong process. Below are some generalized stages of recovery for the addict and their loved ones to get an idea what the journey may look like. Everyone’s recovery is their own so we can not define any specific lengths of time each stage may take. The guidelines below are in alignment with guidelines set forth by the National Institute on Drug Addiction.
This stage begins the addict stops using drugs. Some people may require a stay in a hospital or drug treatment facility while others may be able to begin treatment through another source or on their own.
Most treatment programs whether inpatient, outpatient, peer based or through therapy will focus on addressing the addiction as a disease of the mind body and spirit.
In drug detox, the physiological symptoms of addiction subside in a relatively predictable period of time. The treatment of physiological and spiritual aspects of addiction can be more complicated and take more or less time depending on the individual. Education on the disease of addiction, trying a variety of traditional and alternative paths of recovery and working with a strong support system, the individual with the addiction begins to build a foundation of recovery.
The first 90 days of recovery tend to be the most vulnerable. Proper treatment and/or significant support is needed to reduce risk of relapse. Needed skill sets and insights develop in this first 90 days.
Treatment of co-occurring mental disorders may also need to be addressed in this period.
In early recovery, the individual is the most vulnerable. Drug cravings, social and family pressures, damage repair, the stresses of every day life, loss of trust from loved ones, incarceration, unemployment, homelessness and a host of other things can lead to relapse. It is during this time that the individual begins to relearn how to live. This process may take less or more time depending on how much stress and complications the individual must face. If their basic needs are not met the chance of recovery lessons. They are learning to develop other coping skills, develop relationship and problem solving skills and begin to get insight of who they are without being under the influence of a drug. They may also begin to learn to have fun without the use of substances. Hope and optimism may begin to occur.
Maintenance (or Middle ) Recovery
Once an individual has been abstinent for 90 days or more, the focus becomes applying skills learned in treatment or in early recovery. As recovering addicts integrate into daily life they may feel disoriented, overwhelmed and confused. The need for outside support such as therapy, spiritual counseling, 12 step groups or other support systems are needed to stay grounded in recovery. This is a good time to review things they learned or may have forgotten in the earlier stage.
Often around the five year mark, many individuals who have maintained their recovery report feeling more grounded and “recovered”. But without ongoing maintenance (in whatever path they choose) relapse remains a threat, even decades later.
Advanced recovery is an ongoing growth and continuation phase. It is about enjoying life, healing relationships with self and others, and giving back. It is also a time for continuing to address any co-occurring mental health disorders and other issues that drove the addiction. To avoid complacency, the recovering addict must explore growth opportunities such as new hobbies, interests, even going back to school or a new career.
How long does it take to recover?
In some ways it takes a lifetime. But the process is deeply personal and varies in length and complexity depending on the individual, their support system, environmental influences, cultural context and many other factors. Some catch on quickly and never relapse while others may struggle for years. At the core, the disease is the same.
It is important for others to understand that every individual recovers in their own way and in their own time. They stopped developing at the age they started using. The earlier stages are the hardest. The individual needs to stabilize and achieve a baseline level of functioning. Addiction may be part of their life forever. Over time and in the more advanced stages of recovery, many recovering addicts may not look at each day of recovery as disease management but as a celebration of life.
Common treatments for opioid addiction include:
- 12 Step programs
- Alternative Therapy
- Behavior Therapy
- Biomedical treatment
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Day Treatment
- Drug and Diversion Courts
- Family Treatment Approach
- Group Therapy
- Home and Community Based Approaches
- Inpatient Hospitalization
- Integrated Care
- Intensive Outpatient Programs
- Medication Assisted Therapy (as discussed in the film)
- Pastoral Counseling
- Peer Support Approaches
- Reentry Support
- Residential Programs
- Self Direction
- Self Help
- Therapeutic Communities
- Trauma Informed Care