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Recovery is Not Linear

Addiction Recovery is Not Linear, Here’s Why

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

In the world of addiction recovery, the path often meanders rather than runs straight. There are ups and downs, progress and setbacks, and because addiction is a complicated disease, recovery is not a streamlined journey. Addiction is not only a physical dependence on substances; it intertwines with mental health, emotional well-being, and environmental triggers, forming a multifaceted web of challenges for those in recovery. The underlying pillars of why addiction occurs are often what makes a recovery a windy road. 

Usually, these “whys” have to do with past trauma, unhealthy relationships, undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorders, low self-esteem, and poor coping skills. To uncover the “whys,” we must dig down deep past the roots, which can result in a very non-linear path to recovery.

The continuum of care

The beginning of recovery is often a structured and safe environment where you work closely with a team of addiction professionals who help you through the detoxification process and assign you a “level of care” where you attend regular therapy sessions and may be prescribed a medication regimen to help with unwanted cravings. Many treatment centers paint a linear path that begins with detoxification, then progresses into formal addiction treatment with gradual tapering from higher levels of treatment into lower levels of treatment and then transitioning into an aftercare program. However, this is not the reality of how addiction treatment works.  

Within your structured treatment plan, it is possible to move within levels of care in a non-stepwise approach. You may be in an outpatient program but need a higher level of care because maybe you are struggling with intense cravings and urges or need more help overcoming a past trauma. This may look like going from outpatient care to partial hospitalization or residential treatment. Stepping up or stepping down into lower or higher levels of care is a meandering path that should be tailored to the person’s needs.   

At AKUA Mind and Body, we believe in the continuum of care cycle, meaning that a person can transition from any level of care at any time during their recovery journey. If you have completed treatment but are facing a life stressor, such as a divorce or a job loss, and are struggling with your sobriety, you may need to re-enter treatment to receive professional help to work through these trying times. You may be at risk of relapse or have relapsed and need to undergo detoxification after being sober for an extended period. This model is particularly advantageous as it ensures everyone can access the proper support at the right time. 

No matter where you are in your recovery journey, the AKUA Mind and Body treatment team can help you transition into any part of the continuum of care circle.


What does success in recovery mean?

A commonly asked question within the addiction treatment world is, “What is your success rate”? Unfortunately, “success rates” are very difficult, if not impossible, to measure because the addiction journey is a meandering path. Will the client be successful if they complete the addiction treatment program? Are they successful if they are sober for 90 days? What about 30 days? Are they not successful if they relapse? The problem with measuring “success” is that the standard of success is not defined in the addiction world or by addiction professionals and varies by definitions between treatment programs. For example, one treatment program may define success as completing treatment, whereas another treatment program may define success as staying sober for one year. These rates will drastically vary between these two standards.  

Instead of measuring “success,” it may be more advantageous to measure progress in a non-linear manner, meaning that if you had a bad day but recognized your struggles and negative thoughts and talked to someone about it, that’s progress. If you lived another day sober, that’s progress. If you relapsed and checked yourself back into treatment, that’s progress. Progress doesn’t have to mean a step forward in a linear fashion; rather, it can mean a sharp right or a sharp left turn.

Relapse does not equate to failure

People often experience periods of sobriety and progress punctuated by a setback such as a relapse that may be triggered by a life stressor or an untreated or undiagnosed mental health condition. Although not ideal, relapses are part of the reality and windy recovery journey and should be viewed as learning opportunities. Each relapse can help each person identify and manage future triggers more effectively. A relapse can be viewed as a profound source of insight and personal growth that sheds light on your vulnerabilities and personal challenges. 

Identifying the triggers that lead to your relapse can provide invaluable insight into your patterns of addiction and allow you to learn and develop new coping skills and strategies to keep in your toolbox when future triggers arise. This often means working with your treatment team to create a more personalized recovery plan, which may mean re-entering the continuum of care circle.  

In other words, the path of recovery is a series of forward steps punctuated by occasional trips or stumbles, and each stumble offers an opportunity for growth and resilience.

The importance of aftercare and self-care

Aftercare plays a pivotal role in the addiction recovery journey. Once you leave the structured environment of addiction treatment, you are in the real world and faced with everyday challenges that can pressure you into a potential relapse. Aftercare provides a safety net and a source of continued support to help navigate the real world post-recovery. In aftercare, you are surrounded by other people who are also in recovery, and you have access to community and online support groups, therapy, and alumni coordinators to help you navigate aftercare in the real world.  

“We understand that recovery doesn’t end when formal treatment does. After discharge, clients become part of the Akua Family through our Alumni Program. We offer weekly meetings, ongoing peer support, and healthy fun activities every month as a way to support sustained recovery. We offer a free exclusive app to assist with 24/7 post treatment support.” 

To learn more about AKUA’s Aftercare Alumni program, click here.   

Self-care is equally important as aftercare. You must maintain a self-care routine, whether regular therapy, physical exercise, mindfulness practices, or relaxation and rejuvenation. Self-care can involve taking time for yourself or sharing your time with others who support your recovery journey. To learn more about how to practice self-care in recovery, click here.    

At AKUA Mind & Body, our clinical team understands the importance of your recovery journey. We believe that providing high-quality care to clients and their families is best when it comes from a healthy and balanced clinical team. We offer specialized treatment programs for men and women with trauma, and mental health issues, including co-occurring disorders, and substance use disorders in northern and southern California. By offering most levels of care, our clients benefit from a consistent experience, always knowing their next step for lasting recovery. 

To learn more about our treatment programs, contact our 24/7 Admissions helpline at (888) 629-6707 for a confidential assessment. 


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