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Mental Health Awareness Month

Maintaining Substance Use Recovery Patient Motivation Through Treatment

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Addiction recovery and the sobriety journey have their ups and downs. According to statistics from the NIDA, 40 percent to 60 percent of patients treated for substance use disorder relapse [1]. Those numbers show the importance of having patients undergo an appropriate recovery program.

Motivation proves to be a key component to a successful sobriety journey. Mental health care providers should help develop goals and plans to drive motivation. Once patients have an active support system constantly motivating them, the risk of relapse drastically reduces. Here are some helpful ways to help sustain patient motivation through the sobriety journey.

1.    Celebration of Milestones

According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, recovery is a process of personal growth with developmental milestones [2]. Each stage of recovery or the sobriety journey has its significant risk of relapse. Hence, it’s advisable to celebrate every milestone in recovery to stay motivated.

Overcoming the guilt or shame patients may feel in substance use recovery involves identifying and celebrating progress. Some individuals may use a timeline to recognize how long they have survived on the sobriety journey. These individuals call it a “sobriety birthday.”

What are Some Milestones to Celebrate?

Patients can decide to celebrate any form of milestone identified as progress in substance use recovery. However, here are some common achievements to appreciate during recovery:

  • Lack of Dependence on alcohol or drugs
  • Ability to work through feelings
  • Achieving a personal set goal
  • Maintaining good mental health
  • Reentering a healthy relationship
  • Sobriety birthday
  • Ability to help and support others

2.    Understanding the Value in Gratitude

When a person is grateful for the day, it can be very effective in helping them overcome feelings of addiction. Apart from the benefits of addiction from a moral standpoint, it’s also a major component of long-term recovery. As patients focus on staying grateful daily, it helps them see the positives often.

Gratitude in substance use recovery allows individuals to take on life challenges with a positive mindset. It may also help people see failures as a better opportunity for overall improvement. Constantly practicing gratitude in the sobriety journey will help minimize overall stress.

Helpful Tips to Cultivate Gratitude

In a more practical sense, cultivating gratitude will require practice and consistency. Here are some helpful tips that will help through the recovery journey:

  • Recording gratitude in a journal
  • Helping others, even in a little way
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Embracing imperfections

3.    Helping to Build a Support Network

Every patient starting their substance use recovery journey needs help building a reliable support network. No one can overcome addiction by doing so alone. For this reason, patients will need help from friends, family, co-workers, sober communities, or counselors.

The support group may include (but is not limited to) trusted people from the treatment center, supportive loved ones, and meeting attendees. A strong support network provides patients with an outside viewpoint and guidance. These networks can help people identify addiction triggers, stay accountable during recovery, and share major accomplishments.

A study in the National Library of Medicine demonstrates the various benefits of a support network [3]. It proves effective in substance use recovery and other areas such as secondary substance-related behaviors. Hence, it’s advisable to teach patients to embrace these benefits.

4.    Creating a Structure

Overcoming addiction successfully may require patients to develop a structure to help maintain a sense of order and motivation. This structure should include changing behavioral patterns by replacing unhealthy habits with new and healthy ones.

Utilizing a structure and routine are key components to experiencing a successful substance use recovery. Patients can easily fall into a dysfunctional lifestyle without a healthy routine. Hence, sticking to a routine will help individuals develop self-control and improve overall mental well-being.

Some of the key components to include when creating a structure include a proper sleep and exercise schedule. Mental health professionals should encourage patients to sleep and wake up at suitable times to help the body restore itself. Exercising also helps keep the body fit and the mind significantly stable to maintain sobriety.

Other parts of the routine should include good personal hygiene and the consumption of healthy meals.

Notable Benefits of Structure in Recovery

To maintain patient motivation, creating a suitable structure is imperative. Some other significant benefits to note are:

  1. It helps in replacing old and unhealthy lifestyle choices
  2. Develops ability to exercise self-control
  3. Improves mental health and overall self-esteem
  4. Assists in avoiding boredom, which commonly triggers relapse
  5. Improves overall physical health

5.    Keeping It Simple

“Keeping it simple” also signifies taking one day at a time. Since addiction recovery can seem complicated, breaking every thought and action down will help maintain patient motivation. For instance, a patient can start by motivating himself to avoid drinking for a meeting in a day. The simple goal that the individual set for himself will build up to become a large milestone in recovery.

When going through normal day-to-day activities, patients may need to learn to remember the sole reason for undergoing recovery. Taking that step helps many individuals discover their original motivations, which can be a great push.

Taking recovery a day at a time is most associated with 12 step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous [4].

How to Keep It Simple

When trying to take substance use recovery a day at a time, patients should learn to:

  • Commit to staying happy for the next 24 hours
  • Live through a day and not deal with life’s challenges at once
  • Practice new skills and strengthen the mind
  • Follow a recovery program with maximum effort

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  1. NIDA. 2022, March 22. Treatment and Recovery. Retrieved from on 2022, June 25
  2. Melemis S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88(3), 325–332.
  3. Tracy, K., & Wallace, S. P. (2016). Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Substance abuse and rehabilitation, 7, 143–154.
  4. Alcoholics Anonymous,


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