As you begin treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), you may be under some false impressions about the main goal of recovery. You might think that treatment is meant to “cure” or “fix” you. This is a common misconception that can set you up for feelings of failure in the future. Instead of aiming to be cured of your SUD, a more realistic goal for your recovery journey is that of remission. 

What Does It Mean to Be In Remission?

The term “remission” is most often used in reference to physical diseases. Oncologists, doctors who specialize in treating cancer, will use this term a lot when a patient no longer shows any signs of cancer. This is obviously a good thing because it means that painful symptoms are no longer affecting the patient. Their health is generally in better condition and their quality of life is better. Unfortunately, being in remission doesn’t mean that all of the cancer is gone from the patient’s body. Moreover, there may still be cancer cells within the body that could lead to a recurrence of the disease later on. 

You can think about SUD in a similar way. Being in remission from SUD means that you have been sober and actively involved in your recovery for an extended period of time. Different programs or facilities have varying definitions. Generally, the range of time for achieving remission is six months to a year from initial sobriety. Because SUD isn’t a disease of the body but of the brain, it can’t be measured as simply as a physical disease. Whether or not you’ve achieved remission is largely dependent on how you feel, think, and behave on a day-to-day basis. 

Addiction as a Chronic Illness

SUD is a chronic disease by nature. This means that it does not currently have a cure, it affects your daily life and probably will for a long time, and it requires ongoing attention to achieve lasting wellness. Most likely, you will never be “cured” of addiction. There might always be a small amount of the disease inside of you, even if it can’t be detected from the outside. 

This may sound discouraging, but millions of people around the world who experience chronic diseases are also able to live long and happy lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), six out of every 10 adults in the United States live with a chronic condition. The trick to coping with a chronic illness is monitoring it (even if it seems like it’s gone), checking in regularly with your Family-Centered Services team, and using the techniques and resources that you gathered in treatment on a daily basis. These may include:

  • Continuing therapy (group or individual)
  • Attending addiction support groups such as AA or NA
  • Maintaining hobbies that you enjoy
  • Practicing self-care through meditation or journaling 
  • Staying connected with a social network
  • Getting involved with your community to cultivate a sense of purpose

Whatever has been working for you, keep doing it, even if it seems like it’s not needed anymore. Not only are these practices helpful in keeping you on the recovery journey, but they support overall wellness in all people. It may seem like a lot of work, and sometimes it can be, but maintaining a life of support, good health, and purpose is worth it. If you have a chronic condition like SUD, this is even more crucial. It’s all too easy to slip back into old habits when you’re not playing an active role in your recovery. 

Having a Realistic Goal of Recovery

Because of its chronic nature, being “cured” isn’t a realistic goal of recovery. If you go into treatment with that expectation, you will likely be disappointed with yourself in the future. 

Even after receiving professional help, between 40 and 60% of people with SUD experience a relapse. It’s very common and is not a sign of failure. However, if you expected to be cured by your treatment and then go on to relapse, you may feel like the treatment failed or like you didn’t work hard enough. You may even start to think that you will never overcome your addiction. These negative thoughts are the product of unrealistic expectations and a misunderstanding of what it means to have SUD. Relapse is often a part of the recovery journey and an obstacle you need to get over to continue toward a future of sustained wellness. 

Instead of expecting to be cured or fixed, remission is a much more realistic goal of recovery. If you stay committed to your recovery and continue a regimen that monitors the disease and encourages wellness, you can achieve remission. Treatment at Family-Centered Services is designed to give you all of the tools necessary to sustain your recovery and live a life of overall wellness. 

Assuming that addiction treatment will “cure” you of your substance use disorder can further feelings of guilt and shame that often accompany early sobriety. Rather, aim for a goal of remission from addiction. Whether you’re just starting to consider treatment or if you’ve achieved remission, we at Family-Centered Services are here for you. Our SUD treatment programs will set you up with realistic goals and the tools to reach them so that you can live a life of wellness. We know that addiction cannot be cured, but it can be controlled, and Family-Centered Services wants to help you take back that control in your life. To take the first step on your recovery journey, call us at (509) 991-5822