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Make Your Recovery Plan

Create a plan that caters to your recovery goals.

Recovery is unique for every individual looking to overcome a substance use disorder. But there are several steps that everyone can take to get off to the right start when it comes to recovery.

By first determining your needs, you can begin to map out a plan, which includes building a support system to help manage challenges and triggers. Setting measurable goals will help you celebrate the progress you make along the way.

Determine Your Needs

If you have decided you need or want to go into treatment, before starting it, consult with your health care provider or a health care professional to discuss your challenges and needs. If you do not have a primary care provider, you can use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline for treatment information and a referral.

The health care professional will help you consider your experiences with substance misuse and recovery to help you get on the best path, walking you through these questions:


Are you experiencing withdrawal symptoms?

If the answer is yes, you may need detoxification to help your body overcome a chemical dependence. If withdrawal symptoms are severe, such as hallucinations, seizures, high blood pressure, fever, or heavy sweating, hospitalization may be necessary to help start the detoxification process.

If your symptoms are less severe, consider outpatient rehab or one of many nonclinical options — such as health coaching apps, which can help you cut back on your use and reach other goals you’ve set for yourself.


Have you tried a rehab program?

Rehab is a general term for intensive, supervised programs designed to help people stop using drugs or alcohol and give them the tools they need to live a healthy life. If you’ve never enrolled in one, you might want to start with outpatient rehab. This involves individual or group counseling with a step-down approach –– sessions become less intensive and frequent as you progress in your treatment.

For those who may not require rehab, there are also many nonclinical resources available to help get you started on a recovery plan, such as recovery apps and coaches, as well as group therapies like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

If you have tried recovery apps or outpatient rehab programs with little to no success, it may be time to consider inpatient, or residential, rehab. This treatment option requires patients to live at the rehab facility to help avoid the daily temptations and influences that trigger substance use. Living in a healthy environment with 24-hour support and intensive care supports your recovery.

Whenever possible, work with a licensed professional to determine which approach, or combination of approaches, is best for you, based on your needs and circumstances.

Understand the types of treatment

For your recovery journey, there are several paths:

  • Nonclinical apps and coaching can help you track progress in reducing substance use and setting personal goals.
  • Outpatient enables patients to live at home and go to a clinic or facility regularly for sessions with substance misuse treatment professionals.
  • Residential inpatient involves patients’ staying in a facility or clinic and receiving intensive and highly structured care for substance misuse and other medical problems.
  • Hospital inpatient requires patients to stay in a hospital and receive intensive and highly structured care for substance misuse and other severe medical problems.
  • Detoxification is a process that safely removes drugs and alcohol from the patient’s system.

Find your support team

During recovery, it is important to maintain relationships with people in your life whom you can rely on for strength and encouragement. This can include your friends and family, a recovery coach, peer support groups, or a counselor. By providing emotional support and personal accountability, these people can be a key part of supporting you in your recovery.

Joining local support or self-help groups also can make it easier to adjust to living sober.

You should also distance yourself from those who will not further your recovery. By avoiding situations that might make you consider using again, and staying away from people in your life who misuse drugs or alcohol, you can create a safe and healthy environment for yourself.

Surrounding yourself with people who provide a positive influence and keep you accountable can help you stay on track and reach your recovery goals.

Learn how to better approach and deal with challenges

It is important to recognize situations that trigger cravings for drugs or alcohol, because they may lead to relapse. Identifying and avoiding triggers — whether they’re particular people, places, or situations — can help you stay healthy and maintain a sober lifestyle.

You can curb cravings, too, by making changes that will benefit your overall health and wellness. Such changes include a better, more nutritious diet, along with physical and mindful exercises to provide you with energy and reduce stress.

Healthy hobbies can help keep your mind off temptations and fill the void that alcohol and other substances may have occupied before.

Managing triggers and cravings can be difficult, but remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Lean on your support team for help.

Set goals and celebrate progress

Your recovery plan should include goals that you’ve set for yourself so that you can celebrate successes and continually grow. The very process of striving for improvements in all areas of life — physical or mental health, relationships, or career — can help you stick to your plan, even if you experience a setback.

Each of these goals should be concrete and attainable, like exercising for at least 20 minutes three or four days a week, or connecting with someone from your support team every day. If you find yourself falling short of any goal, change or modify it. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.

Be sure you’re tracking your goals closely with helpful resources like recovery apps, or working with a health coach. Doing so can hold you accountable, but also validate you when a goal has been achieved. No matter how big or small, when you reach a milestone, it’s a cause for celebration. Managing your substance use can be challenging, so reward yourself with any progress you make on your recovery plan.