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[ Opinion ]

3 Common Misconceptions About Recovery

So much of recovery focuses on early sobriety. The first 24 hours, the first 30 days. Many treatment centers offer extended stays, up to 90 days or longer, knowing that the beginning of recovery can be a very rocky landing. And yet, what happens after we’re on steady footing with our recovery? What happens then? Here are three common misconceptions about life in long term recovery and how to navigate it.

Is There Life After 90 Days?

Although the initial hours, days, and weeks of sobriety can be intense, illuminating, and life changing, it’s not the sum total of recovery. Nor do the first 90 days necessarily give us insight into what the rest of our recovery is going to look like. Many of us used drugs and alcohol for years. Once those substances are out of the picture and our substance use disorder is in remission, we find that life really begins. We learn who we are without drugs and alcohol. Our relationships to ourselves and others are transformed. We learn new tools to help us cope with life situations we’ve never handled sober before.

It’s been said that everyone’s addiction looks the same. Our recovery is vast and diverse, however. After treatment, the first 90 days, and the initial crisis of actually getting physically sober, we begin adapting to life on life’s terms. There is life after 90 days, and it is both bigger and less predictable than anything we experienced in active addiction. Treatment prepares us to tackle whatever comes our way, and the support of our peers in recovery, friends, and family help us get through it all.

Should I Go To Rehab More Than Once?

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Although everyone’s recovery is different, some people find lasting sobriety after treatment. Others relapse. In some cases, it’s easy to see where we went wrong. Maybe we weren’t really interested in getting sober, or we were doing it to please someone else. Maybe we needed a different medication or more time in therapy to get our recovery on a solid foundation. Whatever the reason, a second trip to recovery shows willingness to keep trying. Not everyone “gets” recovery on the first try. For some people, another run through treatment may be what’s needed to attain lasting recovery.

When answering the question, “Should I got to rehab more than once?” make sure to place your own health, safety, and personal goals first. Also, know that you’re not the first person to relapse after treatment. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Relapse rates among recovering alcoholics are between 50 and 90 percent in the first four years after rehab. For recovering drug addicts, rates are between 40 and 60 percent.” If you want recovery for yourself, and because your drug and alcohol use is endangering you, then a second (or third, or fourth) visit to rehab might be just what the doctor ordered. Many people have been to multiple treatment centers and spent years working on their recovery before they reached long term sobriety. This is a common experience.

What Should My Long Term Recovery Look Like?

One of the first things people in long term recovery learn is that the word “should” doesn’t really apply any more. We do learn to live up to our responsibilities: paying the bills on time, answering phone calls from unknown numbers without anxiety, caring for our children, and showing up to work on time. But the awful sense of missing out is gone. We don’t tell ourselves “I really should” do something—because we simply do it. Without feeling guilty every day, or needing to get drunk or loaded to feel OK, we are set free to live our lives and fulfill our dreams. Our life begins to take on its own unique shape.

In long term recovery, we have experiences that we never imagined we would have while we were drinking and using. We stay sober under the best conditions, and the worst ones, too. We’re emotionally present in a way that we never were before, and our ability to be there for our loved ones is a valuable gift. We learn to treat our recovery as something precious, because it is. Without recovery, nothing else would be possible. We join the stream of life and we surprise even ourselves. Who knows what your long term recovery will be like? There is only one way to find out, and that’s to live it yourself, one day at a time.