Each person’s recovery journey has unique milestones, yet there are some universal truths about the process. The deep healing and changes a person in recovery goes through don’t happen overnight. We want to address that timeline so people entering treatment and their loved ones can get a realistic idea of what to expect as they progress through the work.
30 Days: New Kind of Work
For a person who’s struggled with substance abuse, thirty minutes without using can feel like a long time. Now this which into perspective the accomplishment thirty days is. In relation to their whole life and recovery, though, thirty days is a drop in the bucket.
The biggest thing to note at this stage of early recovery is how emotional it can be. The suffering person is dealing with the effects of their drinking and/or using. They’re doing this without being able to numb themselves the way they did before they entered into recovery.
They may be facing these emotions for the first time ever. While the emotions flow through like waves, people in this stage also report feeling the joys of life return. They appreciate the little things each day, letting gratitude be an anchor when difficulties inevitably crop up.
90 Days: Comfortably Progressing
After 90 days in recovery, persons with substance use disorder start to move away from their old behaviors. They get comfortable with the new habits they learned in treatment, IOP, and 12-step meetings. In the earlier days before this milestone, people find themselves longing for their old using buddies.
They miss the highs and comfort of “the devil they know.” It may take all their energy to not use one day at a time. By the 90-day point, though, the person already sees themselves progressing towards a life of sobriety. And being painfully aware that there’s still much work ahead of them.
A healthy attitude we’ve seen in people around 90-days sober is that they’re aware that they’ve made great strides and yet, they’re not immune from a relapse. They recognize the dedication required to maintain their recovery and look to others in their program(s) to help guide them in the right direction.
1 Year: Sustained Growth
When a person of concern enters in recovery, they may feel their life is in pieces. They have to face the truth about their condition, their own emotions, and their frayed relationships. They may feel depressed and isolated. Their level of hope is low. They’re physically and mentally lethargic from detoxing and the emotional rollercoaster of early sobriety.
Over the course of a year in recovery, though, we get to witness the rebirth of the person. And by the one year mark, they begin to see it clearly within themselves. They’ve begun to build up their life again. The habits needed to maintain recovery become like second nature. Thus, providing momentum for their growth.
Many people regain employment within this time period and some semblance of self-esteem, and their relationships are healing.
People with one-year of sustained recovery are in the practice of growth and more importantly, vigilance. They’ve gained awareness about their triggers and cravings. More importantly, in a way that lets them proactively engage in healthy actions that keep them on track.
5 Years: The Shift
At five-years, people in recovery have put in a fair amount of work building their life back up from their day 1 experience. People in this stage of recovery have established a network within their own recovery community. And it spreads further within the world around them.
Many are thriving in their careers and seeking additional help where they need it. Once the imminent threat of drugs and alcohol has subsided, one thing happens. People can address other areas of their lives that may need attention and behavioral tweaks. The spirit of recovery seeps out into other parts of their life.
By this stage, the person has most likely begun helping others with their own drug and alcohol issues. They realize they have many tools and perspectives to offer someone else. Someone who is beginning their own journey, and becoming a mentor to those open to help.
As people progress in their recovery, there can be a tendency to forget just how bad things were when they began. Acting as a mentor to others not only helps the person new to the journey, but also reminds them of all they have to lose should they relapse.
10 Years: Thriving In Life
A person with ten years of consistent recovery is a person transformed. From the moment they wake until they rest their head on the pillow, things have changed. Their habits, attitudes, and energy has completely changed from the person who first picked up the phone and asked for help.
People in this stage of recovery find solace in a robust morning routine. This often inclusive of activities that support their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. They’re actively seeking ways to make a positive impact on others and the world.
They recognize that life in sobriety is nothing like they imagined. When people opt for recovery, many expect a life of boredom, sadness, and time spent alone. After a decade in recovery, they look back and notice it’s been anything but those things.
Sobriety has offered them the opportunity to feel joyful, fulfilled, free, and connected. So when low spots come, they also have an arsenal of tools to help them through in many ways.
As you can see, there is no overnight success for people in recovery. People need to stay engaged and actively working to overcome their addictions every single day. The first days are the hardest days and as you may expect. The rate of relapse is significantly higher for people who have only been abstinent for a short time.
About Adam Banks
Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.
Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.
Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one.
Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally.