Statistics Aren’t Everything: You Can Have a Full Life After Recovery

We hear all the time about how addiction ruins lives—or worse, ends them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 106,699 drug-involved overdose deaths in 2021. Along with higher overdose rates, deaths involving synthetic opioids have skyrocketed since 2015 to over 70,000.

However, these numbers distract from the much higher addiction recovery statistics. Addiction is treatable, and 75% of people who struggle with it are in recovery. They go on to lead fulfilling lives, reaching milestones they didn’t think they would achieve the longer they stay in recovery. 

Being realistic about your recovery doesn’t have to mean reading hopeless statistics or, on the contrary, pretending things are better than they are. When you go into recovery knowing what to expect and getting the support you need early, your chance of recovery increases, so you can begin celebrating what life has to offer.

Recovery Isn’t Linear

Recovery isn’t one size fits all. Your journey will look different from that of your friend, sibling, or coworker. Even when you make the choice to recover, other factors play into how it progresses, including:

  • The substances you use
  • Your support system
  • Access to care
  • Wealth and economic status
  • Mental health factors, along with addiction
  • Your environment at home, school, work and other community spaces

Addiction is a chronic condition that needs the right treatment—one that works for your situation. It can help to prepare for both systemic and personal challenges by knowing your roadblocks and setting yourself up with strong resources from the start. 

Access to Care Creates a Barrier

As of 2023, 20.9 million people who dealt with addiction considered themselves to be in recovery, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In reality, some groups have higher rates of addiction and greater challenges in their recovery. Black and Hispanic people face racism that creates a barrier to treatment, especially when higher rates of poverty create limited options for healthcare and insurance.

Similar struggles affect the LGBTQ+ community, and many queer and transgender people face discrimination based on their gender identification and sexuality. A survey from SAMHSA showed that male and female sexual minorities were at least two to three times more likely to use illicit substances than their heterosexual counterparts. Still, LGBTQ+ people often have a hard time finding a safe treatment center or program that accepts their identities.

Addiction Severity Matters

Recovery works one day at a time, and some days are easier than others. For those with addictions to multiple substances or addiction to certain substances, like meth, heroin, and prescription opioids, recovery can be even more challenging. More severe addictions like these can lead to both a higher rate of relapse and more relapses during recovery.

Opioids, like codeine and morphine, change your brain’s chemical balance, and they affect your memory, judgment, reward systems, and more. The brain is wired to every area of your body, including your gut and respiratory system. That means chronic opioid use impacts your entire body, too. It can lead to using these substances more often to achieve a feeling of normalcy and avoid emotional lows. Ultimately, it becomes more difficult to stop using them. 

Sometimes, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help ease the symptoms of withdrawal, offering a less abrupt transition into recovery. For some, it even increases the likelihood of staying in recovery with no or fewer relapses. 

Navigate Milestones on the Road to Recovery

As you build trust and relationships with others and stay in recovery longer, you can achieve many milestones that make you happy and mark your personal success. Many people in recovery say they did things they never thought possible, like:

  • Buying a home
  • Starting a family
  • Buying a car
  • Getting their dream job
  • Starting a business

Those who recover have talked about the sense of stability that comes with it. “I am back in college, attending AA meetings and recently made the Dean’s List,” said Jeff, when talking about the stark change from being on academic probation and several arrests before his NorthStar program. 

Former treatment participant Joel said, “I was an active participant in my recovery from the start, and have learned that I deserve and am capable of a fulfilling and great life in sobriety.” His experience, and many others, show that it’s not just about surviving addiction and making it to recovery. It’s about seeing how much your life can improve and discovering what happiness and success look like for you.

Build Your Support System

While three out of four people recover, they don’t do it without help. Social support can give people hope, guidance and encouragement. You may have many options in your professional and personal lives for where and how you seek that kind of help, including:

  • 12-step programs
  • Friends and family
  • Peer support groups
  • Therapists
  • Spiritual advisors

Finding these sources of support decreases the chance of relapse. They also increase the likelihood of getting back into recovery if you do relapse. When you doubt yourself during recovery or feel like using, a support system can help you stay on track and manage the stress, anxiety and other emotions that often come with recovery.

Through recovery, you build community. With external support, you can manage your expectations for yourself, too. That support can give you people to spend time with in spaces that don’t tempt you toward using substances and prevent you from feeling alone. 

What to Do if You Relapse

According to NIDA, 40-60% of people in addiction recovery relapse. You’re not guaranteed to relapse on your way to recovery, but if it does happen, you haven’t failed. One of the hardest parts of recovery is sticking with it and continuing after setbacks like these.

To avoid some of the uncertainty and loss of confidence that can happen with relapse, make a plan when you begin your recovery.

  • Decide your first step before you need it: The first step is often the hardest, and that applies not only to starting recovery but also to getting back to it after a relapse. Working with a treatment program like NorthStar Transitions can help you take that first step and recognize when a relapse might happen based on emotional and mental factors. 
  • Know who you’ll contact if you relapse: Communicate with someone you trust to help you through a relapse, like a friend or sponsor. That way, they’ll understand their role if they receive that call or message later. Then, keep their number with you.
  • Lay out how you want to handle the situation: When you go into your treatment, make a plan with concrete actions to take if you relapse. This allows you to focus on doing those actions rather than trying to figure out each step as you go. It may help to work through it with a program, sponsor, friend, or family member.

Most people who recover from addiction have experienced relapse, and many have relapsed multiple times. It’s not the end of the road. Turning to your support network can help you continue forward without losing hope. 

Get Help Today

If you’re not sure how to take the steps toward enjoying life after recovery, you don’t have to figure it out alone. At NorthStar Transitions, we become part of your support system as you move toward stability — however that looks for you. Talk to us to learn how we can help you achieve the milestones you’ve always dreamed of through a complete recovery program. Reach out to us by calling 866-407-2240 or using our online contact form to start your journey toward a more balanced life.

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