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Make a Recovery Plan

Explore multiple pathways of recovery and learn how to make a recovery plan.

Recovery from misuse of drugs or alcohol is a lifelong process. Your personal recovery plan should fit your situation.

The great news is that there are many pathways of recovery that benefit people of all ages and from all walks of life.

There are programs that are secular, spiritual, faith-based, or rooted in shared experiences and cultures. There are options providing community-based support, counseling, medication, rehabilitation, and other forms of treatment. And you can tailor your recovery to your personal needs and goals.

Recovery is possible. Learn about the different pathways of recovery and how to make a recovery plan that works for you.

What is recovery?

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines recovery as “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.”

SAMHSA identifies four major factors that support a life in recovery:

Health. Overcoming or managing substance misuse and making informed, healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.

Home. Having a stable and safe place to live.

Purpose. Pursuing meaningful daily activities and having the independence and financial means to participate in society.

Community. Building relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.

Not everyone approaches recovery the same way. Recovery from substance misuse and dependence is a highly personalized process that can take many different paths. The path you choose should reflect your goals for improving your physical and mental health and building a life in recovery.

As you begin your recovery, start by determining your needs. People who are experiencing severe dependence on drugs or alcohol, or have a diagnosed substance use disorder (SUD), should seek treatment from a health care professional. The SAMHSA National Helpline can help you find information and refer you to treatment. You can also get support from a recovery coach or someone else with experience helping people in recovery.

Discuss your challenges and pathway of recovery with a health care professional. Explore your treatment options using our treatment locator or through the SAMHSA National Helpline.

Explore pathways of recovery

There are many resources that can help you as you begin a life in recovery.

Medical treatment

For some people, overcoming the symptoms of withdrawal and sustaining recovery from dependence on drugs or alcohol requires medical support. Consider seeing a trained health care professional, who can explain medical options for sustaining your recovery.

A health care provider may diagnose you with a substance use disorder. SUDs are treatable, chronic mental health conditions characterized by a problematic, harmful, or uncontrolled pattern of substance use. 

Depending on your needs, the provider can also assist you in other ways, including: 

Withdrawal management. Also known as “detox,” withdrawal management programs provide physical and mental health care for people experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Learn more about withdrawal management.

Medication treatment. Certain medications can reduce your withdrawal symptoms and cravings so you can sustain your recovery. Medication treatment programs combine these prescription drugs with behavioral therapies and counseling. Learn more about medication treatment.

Rehab programs

Completing a treatment or rehabilitation program can be a critical part of recovering from substance misuse and dependence.

Rehab programs are intensive, supervised programs designed to help you stop using alcohol and other drugs and give you the tools you need to live a healthy life. Rehab programs vary in the length and form of treatment they provide.

Rehab can help you safely end substance use and maintain recovery. No single treatment works for everyone, and a health care professional can help you decide whether rehab is right for you.

Learn more:

Community-based support

No matter your stage of recovery, finding support in your community can help you achieve lasting independence from drugs or alcohol. Community options include support groups, recovery coaches, and sober living homes. Look for people and programs that are a good match for your life and cultural experiences, employment and family situation, and wellness goals.

Support groups

Community-based recovery support groups are available to you or your loved ones for free or at a low cost. These include:

§  Spiritual and faith-based programs, including 12-step recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Refuge Recovery, which is rooted in Buddhism.

§  Culturally responsive recovery programs such as Wellbriety circles or meetings.

§  Population- and experience-based and LGBTQ+ recovery programs.

§  Secular support groups such as Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART).

Learn more about support groups.

Recovery coaches

Certified recovery coaches are trained to work with people experiencing substance misuse or substance use disorder. Often, coaches are in recovery themselves.

Learn more about recovery coaches.

Sober homes

Sober homes can provide a stable living environment for recovery from drug or alcohol dependence. They give you the time and space to build social, financial, and practical skills for independent living and avoiding a return to substance use. Many sober homes, such as Oxford Houses, are peer-run and self-supporting, with few formal staff members, if any.

Learn more about sober homes.

Counseling and therapy

Many people in recovery benefit from counseling and therapy. In fact, behavioral therapy is the most commonly used method for treating substance misuse. 

Counseling and therapy can help you:

§  Understand factors that contribute to your substance use.

§  Identify and manage triggers.

§  Manage cravings.

§  Strengthen your motivation.

§  Develop a healthy lifestyle.

§  Follow through on other forms of treatment.

Learn more about evidence-based counseling and therapy options that can be tailored to your specific needs and behaviors. 

Holistic, online, and other supportive tools

Addressing your overall health can help you start and sustain your recovery. Consider alternative healing approaches and supportive tools and resources, including:

§  Holistic healing approaches, such as acupuncture and yoga, art and music programs, canine and equine therapies, and exercise and outdoor programs.

§  Online programs to track progress in reducing substance use and achieving recovery goals.

§  Other supportive tools for those in recovery as well as parents and families.

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Set recovery goals and celebrate progress

Goals enable you to celebrate your successes and sustain your recovery. Your goals may be related to your body and mind, relationships and environment, or personal development. Goal setting helps you stay on track, manage the occasional setback, and note your progress in reaching milestones.

Your goals for recovery should be aligned with your needs, your values, and your vision for your future. Set goals that are:

§  Concrete

§  Specific

§  Attainable

§  Personally meaningful

§  Motivating

Here are some tips for reaching your goals:

§  Outline your goals in a plan.

§  Account for barriers to success.

§  Find supportive people and resources that can help you.

§  Share your goals with supporters who can help you stay motivated.

§  Monitor your progress at regular intervals.

§  Be flexible and revise your goals if necessary.

You can track your goals using recovery apps and by working with a recovery coach or peer supporter. 

Understand the benefits of recovery

Recovery can transform your health and quality of life. Here are some benefits of recovery:

Feeling better

In recovery, you feel better physically and mentally. Medical treatment can ease the short- and long-term symptoms of withdrawal, and behavioral therapies can alleviate cravings and help you adjust to life in recovery. Further, being in recovery can reduce or eliminate the legal, social, financial, and professional harms that your substance misuse may have caused.

Physical health

§  Gain energy and sleep better.

§  Improve your appetite and eating habits.

§  Avoid illness and heal more quickly when sick.

Mental health

§  Improve your mood.

§  Think more clearly, which makes it easier to set, focus on, and achieve goals.

§  Address traumas or mental health issues that contribute to misuse of alcohol or drugs.

Social and economic health

§  Establish relationships with those who understand and respect your recovery.

§  Make positive life changes, such as reconnecting with children, gaining income through work or benefits, resolving legal and financial problems, and taking up new hobbies.

§  Forge positive social and recreational connections that don’t involve alcohol or other drugs.

These improvements may not occur for everyone or all at once. But overall, people in recovery feel better, which builds confidence in their ability to remain in recovery long term.

Building your resilience in recovery

In recovery, you find new purpose and potential, strengthening your ability to confront and cope with life’s challenges without alcohol or other drugs. This resilience may look different, and develop differently, for everyone. That’s because resilience draws on what makes you, you — your strengths, talents, culture, and core values — as well as the systems and networks that protect and support you in recovery.

Finding a community that supports you

In recovery, you move away from unhealthy associations and toward supportive ones that offer respect, hope, and positive reinforcement. This sometimes involves healing damaged relationships with family or friends, who may also need help to understand the recovery process. Or it may mean leaving toxic relationships and roles behind.

Your allies in recovery should respect your background, beliefs, and culture. They can be your family members, friends, fellow worshippers, recovery coaches and peer supporters, counselors, or others. Your community of support is a positive influence in your journey of recovery.

Connecting with resources to live safely and thrive in recovery

The benefits of recovery also include resolving challenges that sometimes contribute to or result from misuse of substances or an SUD. For example, coaches, peers, professionals, and others in your supportive community can help you with:

Accessing affordable health care and health insurance programs. Everyone deserves personalized and culturally appropriate physical and mental health care that is respectful of their race, ethnicity, gender, language, religion, social or economic status, location, and disability status.

Finding safe, supportive, and stable housing, which may include seeking out recovery housing, affordable housing options, and other forms of support.

Meeting employment and training needs, such as by finding a supportive and fulfilling career and having access to child care during school or work.

Meeting transportation needs so you can get to health care appointments and services, recovery group meetings, and activities that sustain your recovery (e.g., school, work, and recreation).

Successfully reentering the community after incarceration and resolving legal issues.

Reconnecting with your children and being a positive role model.

Developing a network of supportive family members and friends.

Learn more about life in recovery.

This resource was produced collaboratively with a group of Education Development Center (EDC) subject matter experts who reviewed the content and provided their insights. Last reviewed August 2023.


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