Typically, when people measure “success” in recovery from addiction, it’s with the number of days an individual has maintained sobriety.
While it’s true that the likelihood of relapse does decrease over time, the number of days sober isn’t necessarily an indicator of sustainable recovery.
Each day, week, month, and year sober is an achievement that should be celebrated, and it certainly is one measure of success in recovery.
But to ensure that recovery is lasting, it’s important to pay attention to the following additional factors.
Family and Living Conditions
Prior to recovery, it’s likely that an individual’s family relationships were strained or, in some cases, nonexistent. Once the individual has stopped using drugs or alcohol, efforts should be made to reconnect with family members and repair fractured relationships.
These relationships may never be exactly the same, and it will take time to rebuild trust. However, family support is an important factor in sustainable recovery.
Living conditions may also be less than ideal prior to recovery. Often, addicts have been kicked out of the home they shared with family members. They may be bouncing around between the homes of various friends or fellow addicts, sleeping on couches or in cars.
After leaving treatment, individuals in recovery should try to establish safe and stable living conditions. This may mean returning to a previously shared home, or it may mean finding a new apartment. Regardless, safety, security, and a healthy environment are necessary components of lasting recovery.
In addition to reconnecting with family members, individuals in recovery should build friendships with positive people. Friends who were previously bad influences or who used with the individual must be avoided.
Although it can be difficult to form completely new friendships, recovering addicts shouldn’t be isolated, as this can trigger relapse. Seek companionship at support groups, church, or by participating in sober meetups.
Building a network of supportive, positive friends can be tremendously helpful in maintaining sobriety.
Employment and Income
Stress related to employment and finances can easily trigger a relapse for those in recovery. And in many cases, substance abuse has wreaked havoc on both of these factors.
After leaving treatment, individuals in recovery should take steps to secure employment and improve their financial situation. If the individual has goals related to education, advancement should be made in this area as well.
Stability and satisfaction with employment and income are solid measures of successful, sustainable recovery.
Mental and Physical Health
Both physical and mental health are also key to maintaining recovery. Any mental health issues should continue to be addressed with therapy and/or medication. Health issues, like pain or problems with mobility, should be tended to.
Self-care is also crucial. This includes quality sleep, exercise, a balanced diet, and fun or relaxing hobbies such as yoga, knitting, art, music, etc.
Working the Plan
It’s easy to begin feeling comfortable with your recovery or to feel that you’re now “cured.” But this isn’t the case with addiction, and you must remain vigilant by continuing to work your plan.
You may not need to attend meetings as often as you did in early recovery, but you should continue to go to meetings or attend therapy as needed. You should also keep up with daily routines and healthy habits that you committed to after treatment.
According to SAMSHA, beginning to neglect these appointments and routines is an early warning sign of relapse. Successful recovery means continuing to work your plan and make healthy decisions for the sake of your sobriety.
Measuring success in recovery involves more than tallying the number of days sober. It’s also important to improve your quality of life and stick to your aftercare plan.
Sustainable recovery requires improvements in the recovering individual’s relationships, living situation, finances, employment, and overall well-being.
Of course, one’s own expectation of success and an ideal life will vary. What matters is that you find security, stability, and contentment. If your life has these three qualities and you continue to work your plan, your recovery is likely to be a sustainable success.