Recovery Can Last a Lifetime

Feet in a water on the beach

Everyone has an opinion on the best way to get off drugs and alcohol. But some people don’t believe that anyone can break free from addiction, that addiction is a disease and one has it for life.

When we strip away the fears regarding addiction and the misbeliefs and uncertainties as to whether or not recovery is even attainable, we can get to the bottom of what it takes to get clean.

It comes down to six points the addict needs to do:

  • Enter into residential treatment for addiction.
  • Be sure the program is a long-term one.
  • Follow the program and graduate.
  • Break off connections with any persons, places, or things that incited previous drug use.
  • Continue to apply the tools one learned while in treatment.
  • Surround oneself with positive people—family members, and friends who support recovery.

Why Long-Term Treatment Is an Absolute Must

On April 17th, 2007, a study was published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The study sought to point out the importance of long-term addiction treatment, i.e., recovering addicts availing themselves of as much care and treatment as possible in overcoming their addiction.

The study interviewed thousands of recovering addicts who had been sober for long periods. The aim was to find out what factors in their recovery process had been conducive to such long periods of no drug use. It seemed that the individuals who had achieved the most extended periods of sobriety were also individuals who had spent extended time in residential addiction treatment centers.

“At the time the survey was taken, most respondents had achieved and maintained abstinence over long periods of time
and were employed full-time.”

According to the study, “At the time the survey was taken, most respondents had achieved and maintained abstinence over long periods of time and were employed full-time. Two-thirds had used both treatment and self-help groups to recover—particularly those with more severe (longer) substance use histories. Findings from this study attest to the fact that individuals with extensive substance use histories can and do recover to become productive members of society. In addition, the data elucidate how long-term recovery is maintained and suggest that several factors previously identified as predictors of short-term abstinence (consequences of substance use, social support) may also be beneficial to long-term recovery.”

The study offers a lengthy discussion as to aspects of recovery that contributed to long-term sobriety. But we can also use simple logic to understand why long-term addiction treatment is the right solution in anyone’s ideal recovery plan.

If an individual has been using drugs and alcohol for some time, how can they hope to overcome their addiction crisis with just a few weeks in a recovery program? It might surprise one to know that there exists no provable or even empirical data that the traditional, residential “28-day program” was created to give addicts enough time in treatment. Instead, it is more likely the length of treatment was set at 28 days for most rehabs because that is the duration of time most health insurance policies are willing to pay for an addict’s stay.

It’s a sad day in America when an addict’s health insurance coverage decides the length of time he will get in the recovery center that could save his or her life.

A rehab center should offer long-term services that have no real limit as to how long the recovering individual can stay at the program. It might take a few months; it might take several months; it might even take a year. But the commitment of the treatment center should be that the center is going to help people get clean no matter what it takes and no matter how long it takes. The program should be long enough to allow the individual to tackle all of the aspects of his addiction—not just some of them.

Seeking Help for Your Loved One

Couple is sitting together and holding hands.

Drug and alcohol addiction is a challenging, even traumatic condition of both the mind and body that seems to go on forever. It seems completely insurmountable and something that the individual cannot break free from. On top of that, drug and alcohol addiction can be life-threatening. Tens of thousands of people die every year because of their drug problems and tens of thousands more die from alcohol addiction.

The overwhelming information on drug and alcohol addiction statistics, overdose deaths, crime, disease, family struggles, economic burden, and so on, act as harbingers of doom. The data certainly paints a grim picture that drug addiction in the U.S. is terrible and that it will continue to be so indefinitely. Indeed, drug and alcohol addiction is probably at its worst ever in the U.S. right now, but that does not mean it has to continue to be that way.

Long-term drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers do exist that can help overcome even the most crippling and life-threatening of drug problems. Narconon offers a long-term recovery program that is months longer than what most treatment centers give their clients. To learn more, check out our article on how to beat the drug rehab trap.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.