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Is Addiction Lifelong?

Written by Brandon Okey. Mina Draskovic, B.Psy., reviewed this content for accuracy.

At one point, addiction wasn’t viewed as a disease or brain disorder, so the idea of someone going through recovery and being “done” wasn’t unheard of; however, we now know that an alcoholic will always be one. Now that experts label addiction as a disease, it’s important to distinguish the lifelong challenge of being an addict. Discover if addiction is lifelong and what that means to someone in remission.

Addiction Recovery/ Remission

Once an addict goes through the detox process and no longer craves the substance, recovery, or remission occurs and is reported to be when someone no longer meets the diagnostic criteria for addiction. This could be different for each individual, and someone can easily slip back into substance abuse; however, it doesn’t necessarily mean addiction is lifelong. With new coping strategies for dealing with life’s stresses, addiction recovery can be permanent. Read on to learn what the experts say.

Using Addiction as a Crutch

Research shows that people who have fallen under the influence of addiction just once are highly likely to become addicted again. Some experts believe an addictive personality or genetic disposition can result in relapses, so it’s vital to be diligent in recognizing when the disease becomes a crutch. If someone sees their addiction as a constant companion and one they excuse because it’s a disease that’s chronic, that could set up a dangerous precedent. This may prevent them or give them an excuse not to get healthy.

Remission Stages

Much like if you had cancer and went through treatment and then considered “in remission,” someone who detoxes and goes through treatment for drug and alcohol abuse goes through the same thing. After all, recovery is a process and one that can take a long time with stops and starts. Adicts can either go into full remission, where they no longer need to take the substance to function, or partial remission (meeting a diagnostic criteria but at a lower level of addiction severity). Partial remission is also called ‘improved’ or ‘at-risk,’ meaning they can relapse back into the addiction or substance use disorder. When someone goes through rehab and comes out on top, their remission can last a lifetime, but it does depend on them completely changing their lifestyle and finding other ways to cope with life. This could mean going to therapy for years after, changing environments, jobs, and even relationships.

True Sobriety

For people who say their addiction is 100 percent gone, it usually means not just staying physically clean, but emotionally sober. This means the person has reached a point where they no longer have any desire for drugs or alcohol. They no longer view that chapter in their life with any fondness or nostalgia and harbor feelings of hurt or resentment that may have triggered their abuse in the first place. Developing emotional sobriety takes time and is a process, not just something that occurs once, and you’re done. Believe it or not, it’s typically more challenging to get through the emotional sobriety than the physical. Since addiction is a disease that affects the brain, it can damage emotional skills just like any part of the body. It’s essential to:
  • Address Past Trauma
  • Learn to Forgive
  • Find Healthy Outlets for Stress and Anger
  • Change How You React to Disappointment
These are just a few of the skills needed for developing emotional sobriety that can last a lifetime.

Ardu Recovery Center is Here

If you or a loved one is having trouble staying sober, please take the first step and call us for help. We are here to support and care for you while going through this journey to get well. Our customized treatment program is individual-based and focuses on the whole person. Call us for more information and let us be your advocate for change.  
Brandon Okey

Brandon Okey is the co-founder of Ardu Recovery Center and is dedicated to empowering people on their journey to sobriety.