Contributing Factors for Long-Term Sobriety

Addiction is a chronic disease, and like other chronic diseases, preventing relapse requires a lifelong commitment to long-term sobriety.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, almost one-third of addicted individuals achieve permanent sobriety on their first attempt at recovery. Another one-third experience one or more brief periods of relapse but ultimately recover for the long-term. The remaining third relapse chronically, typically resulting in premature death from substance abuse and its related consequences. Interestingly, these recovery rates are similar to those of other chronic and relapsing illnesses.

The Developmental Model of Recovery: 6 Stages to Long-Term Sobriety

According to the widely accepted Developmental Model of Recovery, six stages of recovery ultimately lead to successful long-term sobriety:

  • Transition is the first stage and is marked by the realization that the substance abuse is a problem that needs to be addressed.
  • Stabilization occurs upon detox and the realization that it’s important to break from the people, places and events that trigger the desire to use.
  • Early recovery is characterized by lifestyle changes that promote sobriety.
  • Middle recovery is characterized by achieving a balanced lifestyle and making reparations for damage done in the past.
  • Late recovery is marked by meaningful changes in self-perception and destructive thought and behavior patterns.
  • Maintenance is the final, ongoing stage of recovery characterized by continued personal development and growth and the effective management of stress and life problems.
Each stage of recovery requires mindful attention to self-destructive patterns of thought and behavior as well as making permanent lifestyle changes that promote abstinence.

Study: Two Major Factors for Long-Term Sobriety

A study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs identified two major factors that contributed to successful long-term recovery among a random sampling of people who had an extensive history of substance abuse. The median length of sobriety for the sample was 12 years. The study found that all of the individuals had participated in a 12-step program, and most of them were still actively involved in it. Many had adopted the role of sponsor. These findings indicate that the benefits of long-term involvement in a 12-step program may be highly effective for promoting long-term recovery in addition to short-term abstinence.

Participants in the study also cited the involvement of friends and family in their recovery as a major factor for their long-term sobriety. Social supports reduce stress and increase feelings of hope, according to the study, and they help those in recovery develop meaningful coping skills and strategies that enable them to navigate difficult times and emerge on the other side stronger than ever.

The Role of Emotional Sobriety in Long-Term Recovery

According to an article published in Scientific American, emotional sobriety is another fundamental foundation of long-term recovery.(1) Emotional sobriety is a concept that describes the ability to regulate the negative feelings that cause the discomfort and cravings that often lead to relapse.

Achieving emotional sobriety requires a long-term commitment to the slow process of developing healthier ways of thinking about problems and cultivating meaningful and practical coping and problem-solving skills, and maintaining it requires constant vigilance and mindfulness, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What You Can Do

By fully engaging in treatment and in ongoing, mindful recovery once treatment is complete, you’ll begin to lay the essential foundation that will lead to a better chance of successful long-term sobriety. Click here to read about our long-term recovery story. Staying actively involved in your support group and continuing to work through various complex issues with the help of family, individual and group therapy will go a long way toward sustaining short-term sobriety. This involvement will eventually lead to the development of the skills and strategies critical for long-term, positive outcomes.

Addiction recovery isn’t easy, and it’s important to understand that a relapse doesn’t mark the end of successful recovery. The National Institutes of Health makes it clear that those who relapse and re-enter treatment do so with a new and unique perspective that can help them re-evaluate their goals, revamp their strategies and examine their environment and relationships as they relate to recovery.(2) For some, it takes more than one round of treatment to achieve long-lasting abstinence, and applying the lessons learned after a relapse can strengthen your resolve and help pave the way to successful, long-term sobriety. Click here to learn more about our treatment programs, recovery residences, and halfway houses located in the greater Atlanta area.



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