It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase, “once an addict, always an addict.” While it’s true that there is always the threat of relapse and recovery is a long-fought battle, a full recovery is possible. 

If you’re in recovery from addiction, you can look forward to the day when you won’t have to battle daily temptations to use drugs or alcohol, fight off physical cravings or work around triggering connections to your past life. In this article we’ll explain the difference in recovery and recovered and point out milestones so you’ll know when you’re there.

Difference in recovery and recovered

The word recovery is often used in the rehab word as a catch-all. In treatment, 12 step programs and in normal conversation, the word recovery is used to signify anyone who is currently sober from substance abuse. 

While recovery covers a wide berth, what it really means is those who are in active recovery and daily managing triggers. Recovery includes the first minutes of sobriety to months, years or decades down the line when it comes without a second thought. 

The recovery period requires professional treatment, usually including medically managed inpatient detox to outpatient therapy and medication. How long this takes depends on whether or not you experience relapse, the length of an addiction and the substance(s) used.

Recovered is different from recovery, in that it’s more passive. Passive doesn’t mean that you never have to worry about dealing with a trigger ever again, but managing triggers is second nature at this point. Recovered describes a person who has faced nearly every trigger to relapse and conquered it.

Someone who is recovered will generally only need to make a more conscious effort during periods of extreme transition or stress. He or she will have varied and adequate coping skills, a solid sense of self-awareness and sturdy social and mental health support.

Fully recovered meaning

The difference in recovery and recovered may seem too abstract to apply to your own situation. There are some concrete milestones you can look for in your recovery, though, so you can know you’ve achieved sobriety.

According to a study conducted by the Recovery Research Institute, the following signs were indicative of a successful recovery.

  • Not drinking or using drugs
  • No physical cravings
  • Taking care of one’s physical and mental health
  • Having healthy and productive coping mechanism rather than turning to substance use
  • Feeling in control of emotions
  • Feeling emotionally secure
  • Feeling like a worthwhile person
  • Having tools to manage pain other than substance use
  • Taking care of one’s appearance
  • Sticking to a wholesome diet
  • Having healthy sleep patterns
  • Having solid social support
  • Maintaining stable housing
  • Having a stable income
  • Good money management habits
  • Having a positive and enjoyable daily routine
  • Not missing appointments
  • Using free time for hobbies that don’t involve substance use
  • Attending school or maintaining a job
  • Having a good quality of life
  • Having hopeful and realistic goals for life
  • Feeling respected
  • Being a law-abiding person
  • Giving back to others

While some people may struggle with a few items on this list due to other reasons, the main point of this study is to demonstrate that a person who is fully recovered will not only be abstaining from substance use, but will have taken steps to create a lifestyle that supports sobriety. 

Signs of progress towards recovery

These are all hopeful signs, but you may feel like this kind of recovery is too far off, and struggle to maintain hope that you’ll get there one day. Thankfully, there are signs along the way that full recovery is in your future. Look out for these milestones in your recovery journey.

  • You spend more time thinking about other things than you do thinking about substances
  • You have started to create connections with like-minded peers and sober community
  • You have a job and housing that won’t jeopardize your sobriety
  • You have mended broken relationships with family and friends
  • You are working on managing your finances
  • You are learning skills to manage your cravings and triggers
  • You are able to identify potential triggers
  • There has been a significant span of time since your last substance use
  • The time between relapses is getting longer
  • The time between distress from triggers is getting longer
  • You have processed events from your past that contributed to an addiction
  • You have attended professional treatment and are engaged in therapy
  • You are able to manage medications safely
  • You have tools for difficult moments and have grown in self-awareness
  • You are able to notice physiological signs that precede triggers
  • You are able to identify emotions that contribute to substance use

If you’ve noticed these signs, there’s plenty of reason for hope. While you may not feel you’re fully recovered, take assurance knowing you’ve made important progress and you should be proud of your efforts.

Whether you’re on your first day of the journey of recovery or in the heat of withdrawal, Silver Ridge Recovery can help. Here, you’ll find treatment that doesn’t just mask symptoms in the short term, but focuses on true interior change. The healing you’ve been searching for is within reach.