How Long is the Addiction Recovery Process in 2019?

Addiction Recovery

The answer to this question will depend on the person. Addiction is not a one size fits all disease. Just as there are different drugs, substances, activities, etc. for people to misuse and abuse, there are many different paths for recovery and each individual has their own timeline. Addiction is something that is part of many addicts lives for the rest of their life. Recovery in many respects is a lifelong process.

According to NIHs National Institute of Drug Abuse, addiction is a lot like heart disease or any other chronic disease. Both chronic disease and addiction disrupt the normal function of the body’s organs or organs with very damaging effects. Although addiction is preventable, treating it can minimize its negative effects. The main organ affected is the brain, as addiction rewires it to misalign self-control, rewards and stress response centers. The amount of damage addiction causes to someone’s way of thinking and responding varies widely and these changes can take a very long time, sometimes even a lifetime, to repair, even after the addictive substance or activity is removed. 

Luckily there are places like Harris House that can help recovering addicts get a strong footing in trying to right their brain’s way of processing various stimuli. Getting individualized help is the key to success. You or your loved one may benefit more from interacting in group settings or maybe a combination of medical and psychological intervention will better facilitate addiction recovery. Having the right team of professionals behind you can truly make a big difference in you or your loved one’s outcome.


There are several stages of treatment. Since we are discussing timelines, it is generally said that treatment begins the day an addict stops abusing or misusing a substance or activity. If and when an addict enrolls in a treatment program or facility, they will learn that their addiction is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit and addressing it in a holistic way can change the way recovery looks and feels.

Making the decision to step out of addiction is not easy and it is rarely a comfortable experience. Withdrawal symptoms and their duration will vary according to the addictive substance. It is very helpful to have the proper support during this time because the body and mind are trying to live without something it has become totally dependent on. And once this phase is passed, it is a lot easier to focus on the mind and spirit. 

Detox is where withdrawal and the 12-step program and others like it come into the picture. Depending on your specific needs, you may need a more intensive in-patient program or an outpatient program. You may even best benefit from hospitalization. Each of these options has its own timeline. It should be noted that research shows that the longer the length of treatment, the better the outcomes are for the addict. This is partly due to the fact that having a support system that understands and offers individualized care can really do a lot for the confidence of an addict.

Therapy is another big component of treatment. Whether it’s group therapy, behavior therapy or one-on-one with a therapist or psychologist will be determined. The goal of therapy is to help you isolate the unhealthy behaviors and to try to identify the roots of those behaviors. Knowing the why behind the actions can help break the cycle of repetition or allow for the healing of wounds.


Recovery looks different for different people. There is early recovery and there is advanced recovery. When an addict is in early recovery they are more likely to fall back into the cycle of addiction. Craving, family drama or expectations, the stress of sober living and plenty of other triggers are always there to cause a relapse. Learning how to live sober and to cope with life isn’t easy. In fact, it’s not easy for sober people either. But learning these coping skills is essential to making it over that first-year early recovery hump. 

Once a year of sobriety has passed, sobriety becomes more like maintenance work. Meetings and therapy sessions may not happen as often as they once did. But meetings and professional support are still needed to reinforce many of the lessons that were learned and taught during the early recovery phase. Therapy sessions may become less intense. Pieces of life are starting to fall into place and an addict may be out of transitional housing or nearing the end of their time there. Getting acclimated to a new normal takes some time and it is very common for recovering addicts to feel as though things just don’t make sense, but with time these feelings usually fade away.

Those who are in advanced recovery have usually been clean for about three to five years, and they are still at risk of relapse. The risk is not as high as in early recovery, but the possibility is there. Some people in advanced stages of addiction recovery may not attend meetings or receive any type of therapy at all. Some will still attend meetings as often as they did when they were in early recovery. Others will only attend meetings or schedule therapy when they start to feel a little weak on their sobriety journey. 

Living On

Being alive and sober can be hard work, and every recovering addict adapts differently. Many recovering addicts will go on to accomplish great things in their lives. Some will decide to give back and become a mentor or a sponsor to another recovering addict. Others will volunteer their time with at-risk groups to try to keep them from making some of the same mistakes. Family ties will be rebuilt and new families will emerge. 

The process of recovery in 2019 will take as long as the recovering addict needs it to, probably a lifetime. Even when symptoms aren’t visibly present, the underlying condition is still lurking. So be sure to give yourself or your loved one the time that is needed to become a well functioning healthy human that goes through ups and downs and handles them all in a healthy way. The early stages can be the most difficult, but when the fog clears, things get a little easier as time passes.


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