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Addiction and Timelines: How Long Will For My Family Member to Overcome an Addiction?

When a loved one suffers from substance abuse, every day seems like an eternity, and you may wonder if it’s even possible to overcome an addiction. Recovering from an addiction is different for every person. It can vary significantly depending on the length of the addiction, the extent of use, and the availability of a support system. Length of recovery can also depend on which substance or substances were being abused.

While every situation is different, there are a few stages that most individuals experience on the road to rehabilitation. Here’s a look at generally what you can expect your loved one’s road to look like, including how long it might take.

Habit vs. Addiction

It’s tempting to think of recovering from an addiction in the same way that you’d consider breaking a habit. Habits and addictions share similarities, like the urge to do something and the perceived reward from doing that thing. But it’s important to recognize that habits and addictions are very different, especially when it comes to trying to break them. 

The American Psychiatric Association defines substance abuse disorder as a complex condition in which there’s uncontrolled use of a substance despite harmful consequences. Severe substance use disorders are known as addictions. Similar to bad habits, addictions offer a perceived reward. This reward might be the feeling of euphoria, stress relief, social acceptance, or improved physical performance. But over time, the rewards become harder and harder to achieve, and the negative consequences take over.

Addictions are far more powerful than habits and, therefore, more challenging to break. Simple habits like biting your nails or scrolling on your phone late at night might be correctable in as little as 21 days, though research indicates that the average time to break a habit is closer to 66 days. It takes most people much longer than that to kick a drug or alcohol addiction to the curb, and the biggest reason is choice.

In theory, you still have a choice when it comes to habits. You can consciously choose not to bite your nails or to put your phone down. But the same isn’t true of addictions. Abused substances alter the chemistry in your loved one’s brain, making them dependent on getting their next hit. Addiction makes it nearly impossible to make a rational decision. Your loved one can’t simply choose not to take another drink or seek their next fix. It’s a bit more complicated to overcome an addiction.

The Steps to Overcome an Addiction

There are many steps to overcoming an addiction, and your loved one may need every step or only a few. Here’s some of what might be included in their recovery plan:

  • detoxification
  • treatment at a residential rehabilitation center
  • intense outpatient program
  • medication management or psychotherapy
  • individual and family therapy
  • participation in self-help groups and mutual-aid groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous


While many of the steps to recovery may look different for each person, detoxification is something that every person with a substance use disorder will have to go through. Detoxing is the first step, and it begins immediately after the last use of the substance. In this process, your loved one will be cleared from all the substances in their body and experience withdrawals that can range from mild to severe and even be life-threatening. Detoxing should be done at a safe facility with medical staff on hand to handle withdrawal symptoms.

The length of detox will vary for each person depending on which substance was abused, if there were multiple substances abused, the length of the addiction, and more. Age, gender, and medical history can also be factors. Most detox programs last somewhere between three and seven days in length, but it may take longer for some people. Withdrawal symptoms may last several months, but they typically become less severe as time passes. 

Although detoxing is an essential step to recovery, it’s only the first one. Full recovery requires behavioral therapy, a strong support system, and emotional healing. It’s unfair to expect your loved one to be ready to resume everyday life after detox without giving in to the temptation to start using again. 

Complete Healing

Once detox is complete, it’s time to move on to complete healing. This is most effectively done at an inpatient recovery center. During your loved one’s time at the facility, they will go through extensive counseling, get on an exercise routine, receive nutritional therapy, and more. Treatment at an inpatient recovery center may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. But in general, the longer your loved one stays in treatment at the facility, the better their chances for long-term success.

From the inpatient center, your loved one may move to an outpatient program, but not everyone will. Therapy should be continued, and family participation in therapy sessions can be extremely beneficial. Whatever your loved one’s road to recovery looks like, it’s crucial to find a treatment plan that is right for them and their support system. So don’t be afraid to ask questions to the professional working with your loved one to be sure you understand the process and can advocate for their needs. 

Ardu Recovery Center Can Help Your Loved One Overcome Their Addiction

When your loved one is ready to overcome an addiction, our team at Ardu Recovery Center is ready to walk by their side every step of the way. Our philosophy focuses on holistic treatment paired with innovative new-age techniques to provide our residents with a rewarding and effective road to recovery. 

We offer medical care so your loved one can detox at our facility and then immediately begin treatment. They will have around-the-clock access to individual therapists, doctors, and nurses, so you can rest assured knowing they are well cared for. Visit our state-of-the-art rehabilitation center in Provo, Utah, or give us a call to learn more about how we’re helping individuals tackle their addictions and get their lives back on track.