Gauging Success in Recovery

Gauging Success in Recovery

by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

success in recoverySuccess in recovery is about much more than abstinence. In fact, for about half of the people who recover moderation is the outcome. Basing success on abstinence sets people up for the abstinence violation effect, which can be a major factor in pushing a minor slip into an all-out relapse. So when someone is not measuring success by counting days of abstinence, what factors are useful in gauging success?

Three factors have been shown to predict successful recovery.

The first is a change in attitude towards substances. How people first felt about substance use compared to how they feel now often differs. People who once idealized substance use may now find it to be a nuisance or an impediment to more important things in life. If someone’s attitude towards substances has not changed, then it is not likely that their pattern of engagement with substances will change.

The second factor that has been shown to predict success in recovery is how an individual changes her/his relationship to work, friends, family, and environment. Changing a relationship does not mean ending a relationship. No, people do not have to break ties with all friends that use in order to be successful in recovery. However, it might be wise to refrain from crashing on the couch of someone’s house for a weekend when that person plans to get drunk and high for 48 hours straight. If you are not happy with your job then make a plan to change. Some people re-arrange the interior design of their living space to create a different feeling in their home environment. Working to improve connections with loved ones is a vital factor in achieving recovery. Changing relationships to work, family, friends, and environment is essential to being recovered.

The third factor that has been shown to predict successful outcomes in recovery is where people find superior gratifications than substance use. Especially important to consider here is the gratification experienced from short vs. long-term goals. Immediate gratification becomes less and less gratifying over time. Long-term satisfaction deepens with increasing effort and sacrifice. Few would argue that eating a piece of pie is more rewarding than finishing a college degree. Identifying gratifications superior to substance use is critical to success in recovery.

In short, three questions worth asking to gauge success in recovery are:

  • How has my attitude changed towards my substance of choice?

  • How am I changing my relationships with work, family, friends, and my environment?

  • What is more gratifying than substance use?

Need help with your recovery? Whether you’re just starting to consider treatment, need some additional support on your current journey, or could use some guidance on gauging success in recovery, our outpatient services could be a great fit. Please don’t hesitate to reach out – we can help.