Essential Elements of Successful Recovery (Part 1)

Multiethnic group of young people putting their hands on top of each other. Close up image of young students making a stack of hands.
Multiethnic group of young people putting their hands on top of each other. Close up image of young students making a stack of hands.

Essential Elements of Successful Recovery (Part 1)

Substance abuse treatment is often a monumental decision that can make an enormous difference in the length and quality of your life. Once this life-changing decision has been made it is important to get the most out of your treatment experiences and your diligent efforts. Most people come to treatment with high levels of motivation, a willingness to give it everything they have and a hope to be free from the constraints of their addiction.

Applying the following foundational elements will help you get the most out of your treatment and give you the best chance to obtain long-lasting and satisfying recovery.

Make Treatment Your Choice

Mental health concerns and substance abuse issues have both biochemical determinants and addictive behavioral patterns. There are neurochemical, social, economic, and environmental factors that blend together to cause mental health and substance abuse symptoms. Regardless of the origins of the problem, treatment for the problem becomes a choice.

Even if you have been court ordered for treatment or a family member has pressured you to get help, you’ll get more out of treatment if you exercise your own will and make your own decision. Being forced to do something you don’t want to do will increase your level of resistance. Choosing to be a willing and active participant in your own treatment will enable you to get the most out of it.

Make Your Treatment Individualized

In order to get the maximum benefit out of treatment you must target your own specific issues and address your personal needs. Treatment programs vary greatly. Some programs have more structure and others have less. Your treatment, however, must be individualized and must speak to your mental health problems and substance use patterns. In order to reduce symptoms and prevent relapse your treatment must specifically target your concerns. Addressing your unique issues helps you sharpen your existing skills, develops your already existing strengths and gives you a personally designed individual recovery plan.

 Change the Way You Think

Another essential element of a successful recovery program is to change the way you think and believe. This enables you to change the way you feel and act or behave. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you examine negative thinking and thought distortions. Inaccurate, exaggerated, and irrelevant thoughts are replaced with positive, accurate, and reality-based views and beliefs. Identifying and changing the deceptions and lies that you tell yourself allows you to change your feelings and resulting actions. Use your time in treatment to examine your own common misperceptions. Successful recovery helps you change the way you drink by changing the way you think.

Make Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Relapse

As you progress in your recovery, it is vital to understand the signs and symptoms of various mental illnesses and how they interact with substance use disorders. Co-occurring disorder treatment programs address worry, stress, anger, anxiety, depression, and many other emotional issues. You will be challenged to grow in psychological strength, motivation, and problem solving ability.

Habits and routines that support drug and alcohol use and abuse will be identified in your treatment program. Your lifestyle practices, personal style, and routines need to be identified, explored and altered. In order to maximize your recovery, use this time to deal with changing emotions that are both powerful and unexpected. Developing a positive lifestyle with healthy hobbies, interests, and activities will keep you motivated, help you prevent relapse and strengthen your recovery program.

Embrace Another Chance

Often times the co-occurring client arrives at treatment in a state of discouragement. Failures and mistakes of the past serve as the chief motivation for seeking help. Past difficulties, however, color the present moment. Previously failed treatment programs and relapses can add to your level of discouragement. However, you have another chance at success.

Treatment must be designed to develop hope. It will help you understand the effects of discouragement and lead you in a process that builds confidence, self-assurance, and hope to further encourage and revitalize your commitment to change your life. Of all the directions I could go, up is my favorite. Don’t give up. Don’t let history define your destiny. Grab the chance you’ve been given. Make the most of it.


Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!


In part 2, we’ll discuss more essential elements to help you stay motivated in treatment, develop a positive attitude and succeed in your recovery.