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What does recovery mean to youRecovery can be an ambiguous concept. If you ask different people what recovery means to them, you’ll get varied answers as unique as they are. Amid their responses, however, a central theme will likely emerge: sobriety and complete abstinence from drugs or alcohol. While abstinence is an integral part of recovery, we at The Guest House believe that the essence of true recovery goes beyond getting sober. In our time working with those whose lives have been dominated by substance abuse and trauma, we’ve found that real recovery is defined by the growth, change and development that occurs from within to transform hope into healing.

In active addiction, each day revolves around getting high or drunk, leaving room for little else in life. Anything or anyone that gets in the way — such as a career, friends or family — is cut loose, and the obsession to use takes over. When it’s time for a change, getting sober is easy compared to the task of true recovery. This involves unmasking the pain or trauma that lurks behind addiction and rediscovering the self, so you can reclaim what addiction took from you and build a new life full of possibilities. While this will look different for everyone, defining recovery in this way has important implications for the direction of treatment and how it helps people heal from the damaging effect of substance abuse.

There’s More to Successful Recovery

Your perception of what recovery looks like may be different depending on your past experiences. To some, recovery might mean trying to get sober or complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol. This is consistent with public perception and messages of recovery in the media, which often define recovery on the basis of sobriety. Although the media play a vital role in shaping the public’s view of recovery and substance use, portrayals on the news or TV tend to overemphasize the treatment process and stories of chronic relapse — think Intervention, 28 Days, or Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew — often confusing active addiction and treatment with recovery. While certainly an important part of the process, rehab and sobriety are just the beginning of the story. Very rarely is there coverage of what happens after treatment and the hard work that goes into achieving long-term recovery. 

Rather than simple abstinence, true recovery is defined by the transformation that allows an individual to recognize their harmful drug or alcohol use and embrace the journey that lies ahead. It’s an ongoing commitment to healing from addiction and the shift in perspective it takes to get there. Treatment will help sort out the trauma underlying substance abuse and teach the coping skills needed to get sober, but recovery is the process of applying these principles in daily life to elicit lasting change. It is through recovery that we can begin to make healthier choices and envision a future that isn’t stymied by the burden of addiction. In the media and elsewhere, relying on sobriety as the definition of recovery doesn’t do it justice and overlooks the full scope of its meaning.

An Ongoing Journey

It’s been said a lot, but recovery is a process, not a destination. The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines recovery as “overcoming both physical and psychological dependence to a psychoactive drug while making a commitment to sobriety,” and it’s this commitment that distinguishes true recovery as an ongoing process rather than a set endpoint. At The Guest House, this means transforming the pain or trauma that led to substance abuse in the first place into something positive and productive. Rather than being simply defined by abstinence, we believe that recovery is not letting old trauma control your behavior but learning from it so you can begin to move past it. 

This takes time, however, and can’t be achieved in a few days or even months. You know you’re getting there when you’re able to see things from a new perspective and process your emotions in a healthier way. When times get tough and you reach for support instead of a drink, that’s recovery. When you can acknowledge your trauma or step out of your comfort zone without getting high or drunk, that’s recovery, too. Each time you use your coping skills and make better choices, it’s a victory that lets you experience life on its own terms, rather than those of addiction. To us, this process of rediscovering your inner strength and the growth that comes along with it are what recovery is really about, allowing you to live more fully than you ever thought possible.  

Redefining Recovery

If recovery is more than just sobriety, what does this mean for those who are currently in or just beginning treatment? Although recovery is more than just sobriety, it is still a subjective experience. After all, what constitutes a fulfilling, happy life is different for all of us. There is no one right way to heal from addiction or trauma, but a program that provides individualized care and long-term support is more likely to help you achieve your version of success in recovery. To accomplish this, there needs to be a paradigmatic shift in the recovery industry from pathology to wellness, and what wellness looks like for each individual. While acute care is an important part of healing from trauma and overcoming physical dependence on drugs or alcohol, it also means that we need more emphasis on long-term or continuing models of treatment that go beyond abstinence. By empowering individuals with the resources, tools and support that help sustain lasting recovery, treatment that emphasizes long-term care will provide a more rewarding experience and spark a deeper commitment to getting and staying well.

The Guest House in Ocala, Florida, is an addiction treatment center specializing in trauma-related substance abuse. We know that recovery is more than just getting sober, and work closely with clients to help them uncover their emotional burdens and begin the transformative process of healing, growth and reclaiming the self. Our goal is to instill lasting change that supports lifelong recovery and goes beyond abstinence from drugs or alcohol, with personalized treatment plans tailored to the needs of each individual. By blending proven modalities with cutting-edge therapies, we can help you or your loved one achieve true recovery. To learn how we can help, contact or call us today at (855) 876-3884.