The Recovery Process: More Than Abstinence!

Trying to stay strong. Depressed young man sitting at the chair and holding head in hand while other people sitting around him

The recovery process returns us to a healthy, full life that we can partake in without abuse or dependence on drugs. The recovery process takes time. It’s not an event that we go through rapidly and are then “cured,” as no such “cure” even exists. However, there are many people who confuse simply abstaining from drug use with recovery. They’re not the same. Typically people fall into addiction because there are aspects of life where they just don’t function well. While it’s true that drugs break lives, often a broken life leads to drug addiction. Destructive situations that people can’t handle well or at all lead to addiction.

One consequence of mistaking abstinence for recovery is the individual called the “dry drunk,” who is just as miserable and wretched as they were before they stopped drinking or using. Dry drunk doesn’t just refer to alcoholics. None of their behaviors have changed, except the consumption of dangerous substances. Their thought processes and emotions remain stuck in the addictive loop. It’s unfortunately, common to find at least one of two of these folks in every support group meeting. They’re usually bitter, borderline hostile know-it-alls, who lack any surrender, grace or humility about them.

is the “dry drunk,” an alcoholic who doesn’t drink, but hasn’t changed any of the destructive thought processes or other behaviors that either disposed them to becoming addicted, or were developed during addiction. Real recovery is a change in habits, a change often in the people, places, and things that dominated life during active addiction. If abstinence was the goal, getting clean would be reasonably simple, but–it isn’t. It’s is a complete change in mindset and behaviors. It’s a deep toolbox of skills and techniques to live life of life’s terms to enable any addict to cope with the shared stresses all people fact, addict or non-addict.

Recovery programs do not focus on taking a person right back to where they were before addiction became entrenched. That place in life is usually already beset with significant problems. The recovery process looks at our lives, our coping mechanisms, our way of living and seeing what can be changed or adapted to help make the hard spots on life a bit softer, and the best parts even better. As I said before, it’s not an overnight process. It takes time, and how much time is dependent on the person.