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The Challenges Addicts Face in Recovery


Sober Recovery Expert Author

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For any individual who has struggled with addiction, the question might be asked, "When will I be recovered?" But the road to recovery is a journey, one that does not conclude with a clear finish line. More important than understanding when recovery will occur is knowing whether or not recovery is a possibility and what can increase the chances that healing will take place.

Because of the complexities involved with addiction, choosing the road to recovery will inevitably include hardships and adversities as the stronghold of dependency is broken. This is observed in every aspect of an addict's life, such as their physical wellness, emotional security, and social interactions.

The road to recovery is filled with potholes detour signs. Learn how to navigate these challenges and take control of your life.

The Physical Grip of Addiction

For example, when substances of abuse are ingested, they can release 2 to 10 times the amount of dopamine that natural rewards do [1]. This biological response influences addicts to repeatedly consume these substances over and over again, creating a vicious cycle of addiction. When the choice for recovery is made, the human body will undergo physical changes as it detoxes from the drug of choice. This process is often uncomfortable as the body heals from the disruptive effects from drug addiction.

Psychological Factors

Similarly, an addict will continue to engage in abusive drug behaviors if emotional and psychological needs are not addressed. The compulsion to abuse drugs will continue to rage as long as it is fulfilling a need, such as a temporary escape from uncomfortable emotions or a method of coping with traumatic situations.

Since there are multiple components involved in drug dependency, both physical and psychological by nature, there is not one easy solution to recovery. Recovery from an addiction is not simply choosing abstinence from the drug or substance of abuse - it is a long and complex process that must address the needs of the whole person to be successful.

Addiction Is a Disease

Addiction can be comparable to other chronic, life-threatening diseases and does not solely result from bad habits or lack of willpower. Similarly to other chronic diseases, addiction can be managed successfully through appropriate treatment, giving anyone dependent on substances the chance to regain their lives.

Having a realistic view of treatment and recovery will make for the best outcomes, even in the most hopeless of situations. It is important to understand that the chronic nature of drug addiction involves the likely possibility of relapse. Relapse rates for drug addiction are comparable to those for other well-characterized chronic medical illnesses, such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma [2].

Although drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully treated, it is still considered to be both a chronic and relapsing disorder. Though this may be deterring to many individuals who are seeking recovery from addiction, it is critical to embrace the nature of both recovery and treatment. Recovery is not excluded from vulnerabilities and will require long-term commitment. In light of this however, addiction does not need to be a life sentence as the prospect for recovery is a beautiful actuality.

The Journey Ahead

Understanding the delicacies interwoven in the recovery process can help a man or woman recovering from addiction prepare for their journey ahead. There are many obstacles that may be encountered as one proceeds through the various stages of treatment and recovery. Even when formal treatment has ended, such as in a residential or outpatient program, the recovery process is not "concluded." Recovery is indeed a lifelong process that occurs gradually over time and often in phases. Recovering addicts face many challenges along the way simply because the nature of the process and the need to be committed for the long term. This can become wearisome at times, veering an addict into vulnerabilities that may thwart their efforts, such as other concurrent addictions or unhealthy relationships. To be in recovery means being susceptible and easily influenced by other distractions that may offer a momentary escape from the demands involved in the process of genuinely healing.

The nature of recovery is in reality an intense process that will challenge the addict in all facets of their life and being: physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially, and more. A man or woman in recovery from addiction will be prone to trials throughout their journey that may attempt to thwart their success. Having this foreknowledge may serve as encouragement to persevere through any obstacle that may be encountered.

In light of these challenges, it can be said that the recovery is undoubtedly the best way to achieve healing and restoration from the pain that may have resulted from addiction. Though the journey is difficult, the benefits reaped far surpass the destructive consequences that result from addiction. Recovery is the promising passage that will lead to the ultimate freedom from addiction.

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005 and Addiction Hope in 2013. She has a Masters Degree in Counseling/Psychology and is an LPC. She has extensive experience in the eating disorder field including advanced education in psychology and a member of multiple eating disorder and addiction professional organizations.

Crystal Karges has a BS in Dietetics, has her DTR and CLEC, and is achieving a Masters degree in Nutritional Sciences. She has been with Eating Disorder Hope for several years and is a member of numerous eating disorder professional associations.


[1]: Di Chiara G, Imperato A. Drugs abused by humans preferentially increase synaptic dopamine concentrations in the mesolimbic system of freely moving rats. Proc Natl Acad Sci 85:5274-5278, 1988.

[2]: McLellan AT, Lewis DC, O'Brien CP, Kleber HD. Drug dependence, a chronic medical illness: implications for treatment, insurance, and outcomes evaluation. JAMA 284(13):1689-1695, 2000.

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