That’s a common question from people who are new to recovery – whether they are dealing with a substance use disorder themselves, or simply worrying about a loved one.
It’s a tricky question, because the diagnosis of most diseases usually includes a prognosis, or a description of the likely course of treatment and outcome.
But alcoholism and drug addiction are not like other diseases.
Cunning, baffling, and powerful, these diseases are never fully “cured,” even decades after the last drug or drink.
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It’s important to understand that addiction is a chronic disease, much like diabetes. It often requires acute, or immediate treatment at onset, to address the damage the disease has done. But even once a general foundation of health and abstinence has been established, the disease will require lifelong management.
Much in the same way that diabetics must take insulin shots, addicts and alcoholics must seek a constant dose of recovery in their lives.
One popular recovery slogan, “Keep coming back,” speaks to this reality.
Whether you’re a newcomer or an oldtimer, you need to “keep coming back” to meetings to keep a hold on your recovery.
This slogan also speaks to the reality of slips. Just as with any other chronic, lifelong disease, living with alcoholism includes periods of health and periods of sickness. Even if you don’t relapse, you can still slip in that direction and lose your grip on recovery and serenity.
If you just “keep coming back,” though, you can manage your disease and build a life in recovery – one day at a time.