Abstinence is when your patient stays away from something they want all for the betterment of themselves. Your patient may be practicing abstinence when it comes to staying away from drugs. However, when talking about drug and alcohol addiction, abstinence and being in recovery is not the same thing. You will be able to see the differences between whether your patient is abstinent or in recovery based on their steps to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Defining Abstinence

Abstinence is when your patient avoids or refuses to engage in drug or alcohol abuse. By not engaging in that behavior for a short or long period of time, you would call them abstinent. Abstinence is a good first step for your patient to take to get used to the idea of not touching substances that are damaging to their lives. 

Defining Recovery

While abstinence is a good first step toward stopping drug and alcohol abuse, it is not the same thing as being in recovery. Being in recovery is when your patient incorporates evidence-based treatment methods into their lives to improve their interactions with the world around them. 

Recovery may be achieved through the help of a medical team at a center for drug and alcohol treatment who can make a personalized treatment plan for your patient. Unfortunately, your patient’s chances of relapsing can increase if the only thing they are doing for themselves is staying away from drugs or alcohol. Your patient needs to know where their cravings are coming from and what to do if triggered. 

Making Changes 

If your patient is abstinent, the changes they are making in their lives are staying away from drugs or alcohol. They are using all of their restraint to never put their hands on another abusive substance. This may mean that your patient has removed all addictive substances from their home and avoids typical using spots and people.  

However, if your patient is in recovery, they are making a change to their lifestyle and behavior. If they are experiencing anger or sadness, they are aware that drugs or alcohol are not substances to turn to in order to get through those feelings. They may also actively participate in mending the wrongs of their addiction in hopes of growing from who they used to be. 

The Process

Being abstinent is the process of quitting unhealthy habits to achieve sobriety. Abstinence is just a matter of your patient keeping their distance from drugs or alcohol. However, recovery is a lifelong process that your patient will have to keep up with every day. 

At a center for alcohol and drug treatment, your patient can be introduced to therapy, holistic options, and a wide range of support when their cravings start to surface. To prevent a relapse, your patient needs to take what they have learned from treatment and find healthy coping methods. If your patient is only abstaining, they will not have learned to cope with the urges to engage with drugs or alcohol. A patient in recovery will know to speak to their therapist, sponsor, or loved ones to help them through their challenges.

Different Healing Processes

A patient who is abstinent and a patient who is in recovery both have different healing processes. Your patient who is abstaining from drugs or alcohol focuses on their physical healing. They remove themselves from drugs or alcohol to avoid physical cravings. However, the healing for a patient in recovery is different as they need to heal the whole person in order to achieve sobriety. Treatment will not only teach your patient how to deal with the physical symptoms of addiction but discover the root causes for how their addiction started. Mental and spiritual healing is the key to long-lasting recovery.

Interactions With the World

Your abstinent patient will spend a lot of time avoiding things to help themselves stay sober. They will most likely work hard to avoid anyone who uses drugs or alcohol, increasing isolation. While it is a strong step for your patient to take toxic people out of their lives for a better version of themselves, this will not improve any loneliness they may experience. 

On the other hand, your patient in recovery will be surrounded by a number of people supporting their journey. They will always have someone to turn to if they feel like deviating from their treatment regimen. Your patient can get this support through individualized and group therapy, where they can talk about the emotions that surface and their connection to drug and alcohol abuse.

Experiencing Life in Different Ways

Your abstinent patient’s experience is different from what your patient in recovery is going through. Your abstinent patient is going through the same thing all people practicing abstinence go through. Patients in recovery, on the other hand, each have unique experiences. The personal history, treatment goals, and different experiences make a difference in each person’s route to achieve sobriety. You know your patient is abstinent if they keep themselves away from drugs and alcohol. In contrast, a patient in recovery will abstain and use treatment methods taught by addiction specialists to get the whole recovery experience.

You may not understand the difference between a patient telling you they are “abstinent” or “in recovery.” An abstinent patient will not lay their hands on drugs or alcohol in order to stay sober. On the other hand, a person in recovery will actively participate in changing their attitudes and ideas, effectively learning to cope and live a life without substances. Hawaii Island Recovery is one of the leading drug rehab programs in Hawaii dedicated to helping our patients achieve recovery. Located in Kailua, Hawaii, we provide the best evidence-based treatment programs that will fit your patient’s needs and recovery goals. We are committed to providing your patients not only a life free from drugs or alcohol but the chance to recover from the disease of addiction. From individualized and group therapy, 12-Step meetings, and holistic treatments, we are here for you and your patients. Call us today at (866) 390-5070 for more information.