What Does It Mean to Live in Recovery?
Upon the completion of detox and rehab, individuals gradually transition into a “life of recovery.” That phrase is thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? What should a life in recovery look like after rehab is over?
Recovery: It’s About More Than Just Staying Sober
According to positive psychologist Martin Seligman, addiction develops when people seek out the four primary things.1
Feel positive emotions
Generate flow-like experiences that make you feel present and lose track of time
Discover meaning in life
These four things are essential parts of a fulfilling life, so it’s no surprise that people seek them. A life of addiction recovery should still encompass all of them, but these aspects of life should not be influenced by the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Life after rehab will look different for each recovering addict. Just as the detox and rehab experience varies from person to person, it’s hard to say exactly what you can expect in sobriety. The key thing to remember is that a life of sobriety is about more than just abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
According to the results of one internet survey, most individuals who self-identify as being in recovery define it as being “a continuous process that never ends.”2 With this definition in mind, life in recovery is about more than just avoiding drugs and alcohol for the rest of your life. It’s a physical, mental, and spiritual process of ongoing change that involves healing and a re-defining of self. It is a journey that is supported by other allies in recovery. Although it is self-directed, recovery is strengthened and empowered by relationships and transcends shame and stigma. Recovery is a new reality.
5 Key Elements of a Life in Recovery
A recent report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines a working idea of addiction recovery as one that incorporates these five key elements.3
Continuous growth and change – Addiction recovery is a process that requires continuous personal growth. Individuals in recovery are constantly working to improve themselves and their attitudes about life, whether by attending 12-step meetings, enrolling in a sober living programme or being actively involved in some other recovery support group or activity.
Abstinence from drugs and alcohol – Of course, sobriety is still a key aspect of addiction recovery and should be consistently maintained on a long-term basis.
Improved health – With sobriety comes physical healing. Many addicts in recovery find that they have more energy, fewer mood swings, sleep better, and enjoy better health in general.
Improved wellness – Life in recovery encourages overall wellness. This includes emotional, physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, occupational, and environmental wellness.
Improved quality of life – With all of the above factors in mind, an individual in recovery should experience an overall improved quality of life.
Learning Independent Sobriety
Another important aspect of living life in recovery is learning how to maintain independent sobriety. Drug rehab typically provides a high level of structure to minimize environmental triggers and eliminate all contact with drugs and alcohol for a period of time.
After rehab, addicts in recovery are faced with many challenges and obstacles that could challenge their sobriety. Examples include:
Readjusting to normal, everyday life outside of rehab
Finding a home
Getting a job
Returning to a living environment that is full of environmental triggers
Facing drug-using peers or family members
Having easy access to drugs and alcohol
Many rehab centers provide continued care plans to help individuals deal with these obstacles so they can continue to live sober. Most alumni have several options for continuing their treatment, which may include transitional housing or aftercare programs.
Recovery-oriented support services such as sober living homes can be especially beneficial for those who are re-defining their lives and learning how to live sober independently.
Transitional housing for men and women:
Offers a variety of support services
Focuses on personal growth and positive behaviors
Encourages participation in peer activities
Teaches valuable life skills like financial responsibility, meal planning, and self-care
Helps clients develop connections
Helps clients develop social roles, hobbies, and other meaningful activities
Sober living houses play an important role in helping individuals develop a new life after addiction. As sober living residents slowly assimilate into a life of sobriety, they will gradually learn what it means to live a life in recovery and develop relationships, skills, and habits that support this new lifestyle.