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Is Substance Use Treatment the Same as Addictions Recovery?

Is substance use treatment actually addictions recovery? The answer to that question can be yes and no. So, what is treatment, if it is not necessarily recovery? And what is recovery, if it is not only treatment? After more than 30 years of working in the field of addiction, whether as a counselor or therapist, missionary, or a person in recovery myself, I continue to realize that for many, the formula for long-term recovery begins with treatment in conjunction with a recovery program and then continues with a recovery program after treatment has been completed.

The idea behind treatment is multidimensional. It includes:

  • Providing information about the disease of addiction and the effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain and other body components
  • Helping clients self-diagnose as to whether they are alcoholics or addicts
  • Teaching how to understand and change your addictive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Knowing how and where to continue your recovery journey after treatment is completed.  

Treatment is for a defined length of time—weeks to months—and will have a step-down approach from inpatient to the continuum of outpatient services. For some people, attending one of the various forms of treatment is their entrance into the ongoing world of recovery. Depending on the substance of choice, length of abuse, and amount used, there are various options, or Levels of Care (LOC), for inpatient treatment or “rehab” which may or may not include a few days of detox. Medical detoxification may be necessary for the health and safety of the client, especially if the person is going through the withdrawal process from alcohol or benzodiazepines, where the risk of seizure is potentially high. Though the client withdrawing from opioids or heroin may experience pain for a few days and think or feel they are going to die, the withdrawal is not fatal. Inpatient facilities are residential, with the client staying on the grounds throughout their treatment.

There are also various levels of care for outpatient treatment, where the client comes to a facility during the day and goes home at night. These include Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), and Outpatient Programs (OP). PHP is usually a 5-day per week, 6-hour per day program. IOP is usually 3 or 4 days per week, 3 hours per day, and many are held on various weekdays, either before noon or in the evening so that clients can work during the day or on an alternate shift. OP is usually 1 to 4 days per week, 1 to 1 ½ hours per day.

So what then is addictions recovery? To some, it is not much more than simply being abstinent from addictive substances for a period of time. That may work for some, until the normal challenges we face in life occur, and then we return to addictive thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and substances. And, without the support of others in recovery, it is not surprising that many are right back on the hamster wheel of active addiction…going around and around for days, weeks, months, or years. For some of these individuals, the only way to stop the downward spiral is the inevitable landing in jail, institutions, and, sometimes, even death.

But it doesn’t have to be that way, because there is hope, health, and healing available for all who earnestly seek it. The journey of recovery—that happy, joyous, and freeing adventure—awaits every one of us. Recovery requires work, and anything worth having is worth working to attain and maintain. Recovery is for those who are honest about their powerlessness over drugs and alcohol and identify the unmanageability of the present condition of their lives. It is with this admission that we can become open-minded to setting aside old ideas and actions and then to make a decision to become willing to move forward toward a new life and a new freedom. Recovery provides entrance into an entire lifestyle transition, where we can ultimately be able to live for ourselves, our family and friends, and ultimately for God, however we may understand Him.

There are many highly successful recovery programs available in our community, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Celebrate Recovery, SMART Recovery, and Refuge Recovery. They provide a welcoming community of like-minded men and women, whose main objective is to stay clean and sober by helping others attain and maintain recovery.

Is early recovery easy and painless? For most, the answer is no. There is much reconstructive work to do physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and financially.  But is it worth it?  With an absolute YES, I can attest. Just imagine being respected and trusted again by those with whom we live our life. Imagine being the father, mother, son, daughter, friend, and employee we have dreamed about being. Just imagine having a renewed, or beginning, relationship with our understanding of God. Imagine what it will feel like having a relationship with ourselves, being able to look ourselves in the mirror and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are on the way to rebuilding a life of value, purpose, and integrity. Imagine realizing we can finally walk with our head held high in all areas of society, knowing we are doing the right thing for the right reason. These and many other blessings are available to the person who is willing to take personal responsibility for their actions.  

Is that you or someone you know? For those in active addiction, you don’t have to live that way any longer and your life (and your families lives) don’t have to be that way anymore! We here at Brook Lane’s InSTEP program can help. We have a dedicated group of substance use and mental health therapists, with decades of experience, committed to providing the opportunity, encouragement, and accountability to facilitate your treatment experience and empower your entrance into early recovery.


Kerry Lance, LCPC, is a licensed clinical professional counselor providing therapy at Brook Lane’s North Village outpatient office in Hagerstown. He is a member of InSTEP (substance use treatment program) and provides therapy for adults with various mental health concerns. He has served at inpatient, residential outpatient, and other outpatient facilities in Pennsylvania and Maryland.