Is addiction recovery possible? Can you truly recover from addiction?
The answer is yes — you can recover.
What Addiction Recovery Means in Practice
Addiction is when we can’t put down the drink or drug, whatever it happens to be. It doesn’t always mean that we’re shooting heroin under a bridge or drinking out of a brown paper bag.
Addicts come in all shapes and sizes, from the mom who drinks too much wine to the meth addict holed up in a hotel room to the guy who can’t stop popping Xanax and Adderall on the weekends.
You can be an addict even if you’re not totally out of control. I’ve met many alcoholics who held down jobs and never drove drunk. I’ve met addicts who only used on the weekends but went totally crazy on those weekends.
You don’t have to use every day to be an addict. Hell, I only drank once a month sometimes, but I’m still an alcoholic because when I drink, I drink to excess — once I start, I can’t stop.
Just as addiction looks different for all these people, so does addiction recovery.
In practice, addiction recovery means that you’re no longer putting drugs and alcohol in your body, but it’s much more than that — it means that you no longer even think about putting alcohol or drugs in your body.
You don’t obsess over it.
This is what’s so hard for the addict to imagine. It can seem crazy, when you’re shooting heroin every day, to imagine a life where you don’t even think about it, but it’s absolutely possible.
Nevertheless, it’s true — this really does happen. The addict can recover and get to a place where they are free from alcohol and drugs, where they can live normal lives and do normal things and not have to be drunk or high to do them.
Does this mean you never think about drinking or getting high?
I’ve been sober 10 years, and to this day, I get fleeting thoughts of drinking or getting high.
However, they’re rare, and more importantly, they never go anywhere. They never lead me to drink or get high.
This is how I know I’ve recovered because, when I was in active addiction, if I had even a thought about drinking or using, I would go do it — often on autopilot.
And I do say that I’m recovered, not that I’m recovering. This is an important distinction.
If I’m recovering, that means I’m still in the process, that I haven’t made it yet.
For me, that’s not the case — I have recovered. I’ve made it to the point where my addiction no longer has a hold on me.
However, recovered isn’t the same as being cured.
Recovered Doesn’t Mean Cured
While addiction recovery is possible, it’s not the same as being cured.
For example, I’ve been recovered for 10 years. This means that I haven’t had serious thoughts about drinking or getting high for all that time.
However, I am not cured. If I was cured, that would mean I could have a drink and not end up drinking to oblivion. It would mean I could shoot a little heroin on the weekends and not end up holed up in a motel room for days on end.
It would mean that I would no longer be an alcoholic or a drug addict.
That’s definitely not the case. I am definitely still an alcoholic. If I were to have a drink today, I would start drinking heavily, to blackout, and I would start doing hard drugs. That’s my pattern, and that pattern wouldn’t be stopped just because I’ve been sober for 10 years.
Think of it like this.
If someone has cancer, and then they recover from that cancer, that means the cancer has gone away — they have recovered.
However, that doesn’t mean the cancer can’t come back. They aren’t completely cured. If they were, the cancer could never come back.
But we all know that cancer can come back, so that’s why many cancer survivors are still considered to be in recovery years after having cancer, why even after surviving the worst the cancer can throw at them they still need to take medication for years afterward.
I still have to take my medication — if I don’t, my addiction can come back. I can relapse and find myself back where I started. Or worse.
What is my medication that keeps me recovered?
For me, the 12 steps is the key to my addiction recovery.
But there are many ways to become recovered.
Addiction Recovery Through the 12 Steps and Other Methods
Though it’s very common for addiction recovery to come through the 12 steps, it’s not the only way to get sober and stay that way.
I readily admit that there are plenty of people who end up getting sober just by going to church, or they sober up after having gone to rehab and never touch another drink or drug again.
There are also people who get sober through other programs, like SMART recovery, which bills itself as science-based and self-empowering.
I know of people who get sober after having kids, or after getting in a serious accident, or after losing a job or having some serious consequence as a result of their drinking or drugging, like an overdose or losing a friend.
There are many paths to sobriety.
Mine just happens to be through the 12 steps.
For me, addiction recovery wasn’t possible through these other methods. I wasn’t going to get sober on my own, I wasn’t going to get sober as a result of a consequence — I’ve had many, and not once did I think I needed to get sober as a result.
SMART recovery isn’t for me.
For me, the type of hopeless addict and alcoholic who can’t get his shit together no matter what, the 12 steps were my road to addiction recovery.
Learn More About the 12 Steps
I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the 12 steps in the form of 12 blog posts.
Start learning more about the 12 steps with this blog post on step 1.