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How Long Will I Be in Recovery?

How Long Will I Be in Recovery?

The terms recovery and treatment are often used interchangeably.  Although they are related concepts, they are not the same thing.  If you’re wondering how long you’ll be in recovery, you must first understand what recovery encompasses.  

Treatment is a part of recovery.  But, recovery involves more than spending time in a rehab facility.  If you’re struggling with substance abuse or addiction, it’s important to have realistic expectations about quitting.  So, let’s explore the key differences between treatment and recovery processes.

Treatment is the first stage of recovery.

Addiction treatment programs often include detox, counseling, therapy, and aftercare.  Depending on the person’s circumstances, treatment providers can offer inpatient or outpatient programs.  The first step is detoxification.  Many facilities offer onsite detox programs which are more convenient.  

Contrary to what many people think, detox is not a cure for addiction.  This process only addresses the physical aspect of addiction.  The next step in treatment is to participate in a rehabilitation program that focuses on the emotional and mental aspects of the addiction.  Why is this important?  Because there are often underlying reasons why a person engages in substance abuse.  The reasons can include elements such as environment, family history of drug use, physical or mental abuse, emotional issues, mental health problems, and more.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is:

“… a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

Treatment programs must have a flexible, comprehensive curriculum that can adapt to each person’s unique situation to ensure long-term recovery.  Depending on the substance involved and the duration of the addiction, treatment programs can last 30, 60, 90 days, or longer if needed.  Most people need at least three months in treatment followed by an aftercare program for continued support and guidance.

Recovery Is an ongoing process of staying sober.

When people refer to themselves as “recovered’ they should instead refer to themselves as “in recovery.”  The distinction is vital to the individual’s understanding of the process.  Recovery cannot be determined by a specific length of time.  It is an ongoing process that the individual must work at for a lifetime.  Also, the experience is different for each person.  So, recovery cannot be given specific parameters.  

Being in recovery means applying the concepts and skills learned while in a treatment program.  The classes, activities, and counseling help clients regain self-esteem, build confidence, and develop effective coping techniques.  They learn to recognize and manage triggers that could lead to relapse. The goal is to help a person manage daily tasks or stress without the need for addictive substances.  In other words, treatment provides a firm foundation for building a sober life.

So, how long will you be in recovery?  The best way to look at it is that each day brings challenges and temptations.  How you respond to those factors will determine whether you continue in recovery or suffer a relapse.  But, never forget you are not alone in the experience.  Millions of people are active in recovery today and enjoying the benefits of healthier, sober living.  

What if I relapse while in recovery?

Relapse is not uncommon during recovery. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 50 to 90 percent of recovering alcoholics relapse within the first four years after rehab.  For recovering drug abusers, the relapse rates are approximately 40 to 60 percent.  But, the way the person responds to relapse is the crucial factor.  In most cases, a person who has a “slip” can get back on track by attending a self-help meeting.  With a full relapse, additional time in rehab may be needed.

The differences between a “slip” and a full relapse are:

  • A slip is a short-lived occurrence.  The person may use the substance for a day and realize the risk they’ve taken.  They then take steps to stop using before addiction takes hold again.
  • A full relapse happens when the person returns to a pattern of substance use over a long period of weeks or months.  They may isolate themselves and skip meetings due to shame or guilt about the relapse.   

Relapse can be dangerous if the person uses the same amount of the substance they used before treatment.  This happens because the body no longer has a tolerance for the substance.  Fatal overdoses are a concern for people who relapse after treatment.  

Treatment and Recovery at Cycles of Change Recovery

Remaining in recovery is a continuing process of trying different methods to cope with daily stressors.  At Cycles of Change Recovery, we understand the challenges faced by our clients when they step back out into the world as sober individuals.  Therefore, we provide a comprehensive treatment program customized for each client’s specific needs.  

With the right combination of education, support, and compassion, we give our client’s the best chance for moving forward toward a purposeful, healthier lifestyle.  If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact our Palmdale, California facility today.  We will be happy to discuss our treatment options and get you started on the next cycle of change in your life.


  • asam.org – Definition of Addiction
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – A Comparative Study of Factors Associated with Relapse in Alcohol Dependence and Opioid Dependence

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