Recovery from drugs happens over time — it is not a single moment in time. Drug recovery is a constantly changing period that requires work to maintain. Recovery from drugs is a new beginning, and can be a time of great personal enjoyment and growth for addicts in recovery and their families.

Most addiction professionals use the term "recovering" rather than "recovered." Although the addict has made a commitment to abstinence and is moving in that direction, he or she will always be an addict and continues to be vulnerable to relapse. Recovery requires constant effort — so most view it as if the work of recovery is never fully done, so they use the word "recovering." Recovery from drugs requires that the addict repair relationships damaged through years of taking drugs. There will be feelings of shame and self-hatred. The addict will have to give up the "addict mentality" that is suspicious, secretive, manipulative, and self-centered.

Recovering or Recovered?

Addicts who are in recovery have overcome the problems associated with their drug use. Addicts do not have to be in the addiction stage of substance use to appreciate recovery, and they don't have to enter a formal treatment program or attend a self-help group — they may have simply had a candid conversation with a family member or significant other and decided it was time to cut back on drinking or drug taking. Sometimes relapse occurs when the addict is doing well with their recovery. He or she feels healthy, confident, and/or "cured" and believes that they can handle casual, regular or "controlled" use of drugs. The addict may remember the starting period of their use where their use didn't cause problems – and may want to attempt return to that place. But this is impossible since addiction changes the physical makeup of the brain and the person in recovery will never be able to use drugs or alcohol in a controlled fashion again.

Getting Help During Recovery

Medical professionals, particularly those who specialize in substance use disorders, are an extremely important asset during recovery and especially if you relapse. They can help the addict learn new techniques for containing feelings, focusing on the present, and making use of support from others. The addict may also rely on group support from Twelve Step programs, engaging in prayer or meditation, and finding other ways to stay sober.