Some recovering addicts might say that once you’re in recovery, you’re in it for life. No matter how many years of sobriety you have under your belt, you’re always a recovering addict because you’re always vulnerable to triggers and cravings. Besides, even when you’re sober, you’re going to face your other compulsions and you’ll be working on those in recovery too.

At the same time, others might argue that recovery is complete once you’ve reached long-term sobriety. Once you have confidence in the fact that you’ll never touch a drink or drug again then recovery is done.

The truth is there are few measures to indicate the meaning of recovery. Certainly, the absence of drinking or drug use is the most obvious indication. But what about recovery from the mental patterns of addiction, such as denial, self-sabotage, or co-dependency? Does that ever go away? Does one ever really recover aside staying sober day after day?

Experts say that that recovery is not only the absence of engaging in self-destructive behavior, such as the abuse of alcohol or drugs. It is also the participation in productive and life-affirming behaviors. It is also the ability to have healthy relationships, including with oneself. For instance, one might be able to stay sober, but if he or she is not able to work, maintain healthy relationships, or function in life, then perhaps recovery isn’t entirely complete.

It’s important to make this distinction because often recovery to an addict means getting sober. However, it’s much more than this. Recovery means changing one’s thought patterns, beliefs about oneself, and lifestyle choices. Recovery means facing other compulsions aside from the compulsion to drink or use drugs. A compulsion is an irresistible urge that goes against your conscious wishes. It’s engaging in a behavior while feeling as though you can’t stop. Once sober, some recovering addicts find that they have other compulsions that they need to heal and overcome. These might be a compulsion to eat, gamble, or engage in excessive sexual activity.

For many men and women in recovery, although they are sober, there are still parts of his or her personality that warrant healing. Even when a person is no longer drinking, dysfunctional patterns of thought are often still in full swing. It’s the reason for term among the Alcoholics Anonymous community – the dry drunk. The negative connotation to this phrase comes from the fact that a recovering addict might continue to be just as harmful in his or her relationships even while sober.

The problem is often the thinking patterns and beliefs about oneself. Of course, all recovering addicts do not share negative thought patterns to the same degree. Depending on the stage of recovery they are in, some of these patterns may no longer be an issue. Others might not get addressed until much further in one’s recovery. It’s important to point out that the destruction that is inherent in the addiction cycle is frequently a result of these thinking patterns. For this reason, they need to be addressed and healed.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a measure of recovery, it’s not so much that you’re sober, it’s that your inner life has changed. If you really want to recover, here are a list of tangible signs that you’re getting better. You have:

–an absence of self-destructive behavior
–participation in productive and life affirming activities
–ability to have healthy relationships with others
–ability to have a healthy and loving relationship with oneself
–ability to function in your daily life

Because recovery means much more than simply getting clean, many treatment programs include services that facilitate improving many areas of one’s life. Addiction services might facilitate healing in your physical, emotional, psychological, financial, and even spiritual aspects of life. With these services, treatment centers are attempting to facilitate recovery – in the fullest sense of the word.

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