What to Expect with Addiction Recovery


Recovery from addiction can be a long and challenging road.

But contrary to what movies and television might have us believe, it's not all terrible and painful. Getting clean and sober can be one of the most powerful transformations a person experiences, and it is a journey that will last a lifetime. Knowing what to expect along the way is helpful.

Physical changes

The most immediate changes that happen during addiction recovery have to do with the physical body. Regardless of what type of substance you were abusing, you can probably expect to experience a period of withdrawal symptoms. These can sometimes be painful to deal with – and you might need medical attention while going through this process – but they will typically only last about a week.

You may experience headaches, mood swings, weight gain or loss, cravings, night sweats, shaking or irritability. Know that this is normal, and also realize that once the physical symptoms have subsided, you will most likely feel better than you have in a long while.

Emotional changes

Along with the physical changes, you will undoubtedly experience radical emotional shifts as you begin the process of recovery. Now that you are no longer using substances to mask or enhance your emotions, they will often feel more powerful and raw than ever before.

Expect to be moody for a while as you adjust to coping with feelings without drugs or alcohol. During this time, it is best to get emotional support through recovery groups or individual counseling, as others who have been in your shoes can relate and provide invaluable encouragement and advice.

Social life

Addiction recovery also requires a huge adjustment where your social life is concerned. Many people expect to be able to carry on with old friends the way they used to, but the sad truth is that some of your loved ones may not be the best people to have around you – at least in the beginning stages of recovery.

It is critical to build a support network of other people in recovery and to cultivate hobbies that are healthy and productive for your new life. Do not feel bad about cutting ties with people who are still using or avoiding situations or environments that may trigger a relapse.


A stark reality of addiction is that most people end up relapsing. This is not to say that every person in recovery will go back to their old ways, but it is very common to slip up once – or maybe even several times – along the way. Avoid beating yourself up if you relapse, and stay connected to your sponsor, a counselor or a support person to help keep you accountable for your actions. Know that relapse is part of the process, and it does not mean you have failed.


The light at the end of the tunnel for addiction recovery is that your new life can be more fulfilling and incredible than you ever dreamed possible. Know that things will probably be hard in the beginning, but that time will help you move on toward bigger and better things. Living clean and sober is possible, and it certainly doesn't mean you won't ever have fun again. It requires a daily commitment, but so did addiction.

Source: NIMH


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