After successfully completing initial treatment for a substance use disorder, the recovery journey begins.

Learn about the steps along the way, and get the information you need to help yourself or your loved one to move forward.

Many organizations, such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), have published scientific research that shows addiction is a disease that causes physical changes in the brain.1 Once treatment begins, someone with a substance use disorder can move on to manage the disease, just as they would any other chronic illness. For substance use disorders, disease management can last a lifetime—but don’t be overwhelmed. Sustaining recovery is possible, and it can be an extremely rewarding experience.

Along with the many opportunities that recovery brings, it can also include many challenges.

Having to deal with some of the same stresses and temptations that led to initial substance use means that people in recovery need to learn new coping skills and find support systems. They'll need to adjust to these changes and make efforts to avoid relapse. But no one in recovery is ever alone.

In this section, we outline everything you need to know about recovery and how to support it. We’ll explain aftercare, which is the next stage of treatment. Aftercare is designed to help manage many of the challenges faced in recovery, and includes everything from therapy to medication to peer support groups—all of which are designed to help you or your loved one stay on the recovery path.

We also explore scientific research that identifies the ways that we as humans create change—and the necessary steps that make change last. This includes an explanation of the well-known Stages of Change Model introduced by Prochaska and DiClemente, along with insights about how each stage relates to substance use disorder and what you can do in each stage to keep progressing toward permanent change.

After you understand what it takes to make a lasting change, you can find specific information about How to Support Your Recovery, along with detailed suggestions for how to make it through the First 90 Days, when the risk of relapse is at its highest. Finally, we take a look at the Reality of Relapse, including an explanation of what it is, why it happens, how to prevent it, and how to get back on track after a relapse occurs.

Recovery is an on-going process, and it requires a daily commitment. The good news is that it is achievable, and an aftercare program can help.

Use the information here and talk to your doctor about creating a long-term recovery plan for yourself or your loved one, and get the resources and support you need to maintain your recovery gains.

1. National Institute on Drug Abuse,, “Treatment and Recovery”