What Addiction Recovery Feels Like

April 19, 2016

The road to addiction is bumpy, congested, under construction, without a speed limit, and prone to breakdowns. Getting into the car and starting the road trip can be the hardest part for many, but recovery doesn’t get easy from there. In fact, relapsing and starting the road trip many times is common amongst those trying to obtain sobriety. There are many pit stops along the road to recovery and some are miserable, some are more positive, but the destination is always worth the journey.


For those who have never detoxed, they don’t understand the pain that comes along with this aspect of recovery. The symptoms from drug and alcohol withdrawal include anxiety, shakiness, confusion, fever, restlessness, insomnia, headaches, depression, seizures, palpitations, tightness in the chest, and nausea, among others. The physical symptoms of detoxing can be severe enough to be life-threatening, so the seriousness of the pain of detox shouldn’t be taken lightly and can be one of the many deterrents to reach sobriety. This part of recovery is difficult and painful, but it’s necessary and temporary. Fortunately, if detox can be completed then recovery can continue and one more leg of the journey is complete.


One of the most important aspects of recovery is understanding your addiction. Some people are predisposed to substance abuse due to biological factors, environmental factors, or a mixture of the two. Addiction is a disease that affects the communication and pleasure centers of the brain making quitting an extremely difficult task since the neurotransmitters in the brain are being rewired. Despite these causes of addiction, it’s important to understand why addiction happens without using it as a crutch and becoming the victim. Taking responsibility and being held accountable can be difficult for many addicts and cause defensive behavior.

After detox the body can become vulnerable, being in so much pain can cause depression, and detoxing from substances causes you to feel your emotions and not hide from them. With so much happening to the body and the mind, anger is a common feeling through recovery – but it’s important not to succumb to this feeling and let it take over.


After the defensive feelings, the anger, and the detox comes the feelings of guilt associated with being able to take accountability. Despite the difficult feelings of guilt, this feeling is ultimately a good thing because it means you’ve been able to take responsibility for your substance abuse without blaming someone or something else. Those who have experienced a traumatic event like abuse, military service, or the loss of a loved one who has turned to substance abuse as a way to cope is common. However, using substances to cope can make accountability even more difficult. Once you are able to take responsibility, however, the feelings of guilt can be quite overwhelming. Depression and anxiety due to feelings of guilt can cause a relapse, so it’s important to take responsibility while also seeking forgiveness to work through those feelings.

Guilt is a major aspect to the recovery process if you are doing it right, but it’s important not to let feelings of shame be too overwhelming or take away from the recovery process. Taking responsibility, understanding your worth, and working to keep yourself healthy and happy is not an easy task so it’s important to work through the feelings of guilt instead of succumbing to them.



Being reliant on a substance is an incredibly powerless feeling. It takes over every single area of life. It hurts relationships, affects you physically, hurts you emotionally, and changes priorities. When you can get through the pain of detox and the emotional turmoil associated with the anger and guilt of recovery, you get the feeling of beating your nemesis and realizing you are the one in control. Every sober day that goes by is one to celebrate, even if the recovery process isn’t quite complete. One of the best feelings of addiction recovery is the feeling of being in control of your own body, defeating something that many others can’t, and celebrating the strength it takes to drop down to your lowest and then claw your way back up to your highest.

In order to achieve sobriety, it’s important to find the recovery process that works for each person. There are options for inpatient or outpatient rehab, centers in any state, and facilities that offer many different rehabilitation options. Depending on different triggers, living situations, and responsibilities, there are different options to get help to achieve sobriety so you do not have to battle through it on your own.


This stage of recovery is the light at the end of the tunnel. Every pit stop, speed bump, and wrong turn on the road to recovery is to reach this final stage of recovery. This can seem like a goal impossible to reach for many in the grips of addiction, but it’s extremely possible to attain. Addiction recovery may seem like a painful process filled with pain, sickness, and emotional turmoil – and it is – but it’s only temporary and the happiness is long term. Recovery is a lifelong process and it’s important to be mindful that an addict is an addict whether or not they are using, so those who have issues with substance abuse need to fight for their sobriety forever. The reward for fighting through addiction recovery is happiness and it’s possible for every person struggling with addiction to achieve it.

The question is what does addiction recovery feel like, and the answer is “happiness.” Getting to the end of the road and reaching the desired destination is a different journey for everyone, but the stops are similar for everyone and important to take in order to succeed in recovery long term. Without detoxing, feeling angry, accepting the responsibility, feeling guilty, and achieving sobriety it’s impossible to recover from addiction and feel that happiness that is tied to recovery. It’s important to get in the car and drive the road to recovery, even if you know it’s going to be a bumpy one.


Author bio: Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is passionate about addiction recovery advocacy, listens to talk radio, and prefers her coffee cold. Follow her on Twitter!

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