Recovery | About Addiction

Multiple Pathways of Recovery

There are many pathways and styles of long-term recovery.


25 million Americans living in recovery.

Recovery from substance use disorders has had several definitions. Although specific elements of these definitions differ, all agree recovery goes beyond the remission of Substance Use Disorder symptoms to include a positive change in the whole person. Click here to download the full guide.

There are many paths of recovery. People will choose their recovery pathway based on cultural values, socioeconomic status, psychological and behavioral needs, and the nature of their substance use disorder. With such a personal and varied stake it is impossible to categorize every single type of Recovery. However, there are several large areas that Recovery falls into. In this regard, ‘abstinence’ from substances, though often necessary, is not always sufficient to define recovery. 

Types of Recovery Paths:

  • Natural Recovery
  • Recovery Mutual Aid Groups
  • Medication Assisted Recovery
  • Peer-Based Recovery Supports
  • Family Recovery
  • Technology-Based Recovery
  • Alternative Recovery Supports

Quick Facts on Addiction

  • 50% 50% of adults who once met diagnostic criteria for an addiction are in recovery.
  • 1/7 people will develop an addiction.
  • 90% of people who need addiction treatment do not receive it.

There are many paths of recovery.


66 million people aged 12 or older in the United States reported binge

Natural Recovery

”Natural recovery is, according to some studies, the most common recovery pathway, but the prevalence of this style declines as problem duration and severity increase. Natural recovery is a more viable pathway for people with shorter and less severe alcohol and other drug problems and for those with higher incomes and more stable social and occupational supports”- William White

Recovery happens naturally all the time. For many people with substance use disorders remission and recovery is a process that happens naturally and over time. In fact, such individuals may never have thought of themselves as having an addiction at all, much less being in recovery- even though by all medical classifications they would have qualified as having an addiction to a substance.

Why is this? No one knows for sure. It could be negative public attitudes associated with addiction is so strong that many people would never choose to voluntarily enter into treatment or engage with a mutual support group. It could be that some people are in denial about the extent of their problem and do not feel the need for support.  It could be that the narrative for treatment and recovery is so pervasive that most attention is focused on the visible aspects of addiction recovery, and the many millions who voluntarily stop on their own are forgotten.

Natural recovery exists across the spectrum of drug choices.  Those who achieve natural recovery report multiple reasons for avoiding formal treatment institutions and mutual aid societies. These reasons include a desire to protect their privacy, aversion to sharing problems with others, a desire to avoid the stigma of being labeled, a belief that they can solve their problems without professional treatment, and a perception that treatment and mutual aid groups are ineffective or not personally suited for them.

So then how do people recover naturally? There’s no clear answer. Many people experience a change in environment, or they change their habits completely, often supplanting an addiction with exercise or some other type of activity. Or, some people may stop using a certain problem drug and continue to drink or use other substances recreationally – which may or may not be defined as problem use.

“ There are many paths to recovery—and if we want to help people get there, we need to explore all of them. That means recognizing that natural recovery exists—and not dismissing data we don’t like. - Maia Szalavitz

Mutual Support Groups/Mutual Aid Groups

Often called ‘self-help groups or support groups’, these groups are small-scale community-oriented groups where people suffering from Substance Use Disorders meet and provide support to each other. These groups provide a safe space for people to share stories, talk about challenges, or share personal achievements- often with an overarching framework guiding the group purpose. Mutual Support Groups are often an initial destination for people hoping to find recovery, and also serve to help people maintain long-term recovery. Most mutual aid groups meet face to face, but there are web-based groups as well. 

For a listing of nationwide Mutual Aid Groups see here.

Recovery Support Services

Recovery support services are a common and effective means by which individuals have found and sustained long term recovery. Often, but not always, the services are provided by individuals who have suffered from a substance use disorder and then found and sustained long-term recovery. 

One of the most common forms of recovery supports are Recovery Coaches. Recovery Coaches help the individual determine the recovery pathway that best suits their needs rather than guiding them down any specific pathway. In this manner, Recovery Coaches are vastly different than a 12 Step Sponsor.

The Surgeon General’s Report, Facing Addiction in America, describes Recovery Coaches in the following way:

  • Individuals in recovery who help others with substance use disorders achieve and maintain recovery using four types of support:
    • Emotional (empathy, caring, concern);
    • Informational (practical knowledge and vocational assistance);
    • Instrumental (concrete assistance to help individuals gain access to health and social services);
    • ŠAffiliational (introductions to healthy social contacts and recreational pursuits).
  • Embedded in the community in a variety of settings, including recovery community organizations; community health, mental health, or addiction clinics; sober living homes and recovery residences; and recovery high school and collegiate recovery programs.

Peer workers in various treatment and recovery contexts including primary care, emergency departments, mental health clinics, criminal justice, child welfare, homeless agencies, and crisis outreach teams.

“ It is impossible to categorize every single type of Recovery.

Medication-Assisted Recovery

Medication Assisted Recovery is not to be confused with Medication Assisted treatment (MAT). Medication Assisted Recovery is defined as the use of medications in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies for the treatment of substance use disorders. A combination of medication and behavioral therapies is effective in the treatment of substance use disorders, and has been the primary factor in helping many people to sustain recovery. For more information on the specifics of Medication Assisted Treatment click here to see our breakdown of available medications.

Family Recovery

Recovery is not just for the individual. As addiction has extreme effects on the health and mental wellness of the individual, necessitating recovery, addiction can also have the same impact on families. Anger, distrust, resentment, co-dependency, inter-generational violence, these are all examples of the serious consequences that addiction can have on families – reverberating in society for generations.

In order to heal the individual, it is often imperative for families to also heal. This may mean that families enter into recovery together, or it may mean that family members find recovery for themselves while their loved one is still in active addiction. Whatever it may be, the role of families in ending addiction cannot be understated. To learn more about recovery supports available for families – click here.

“ It is impossible to categorize every single type of Recovery.

Online & Alternative Recovery

There is no one model for addiction recovery. It exists across the spectrum from in-person support meetings, one on one counseling, to hiking with close friends or commenting on posts in an internet forum. To paraphrase the old mantra – “whatever works”. So with that said, take a look at our comprehensive rundown of technology-based recovery supports, and some alternative recovery supports that have been gaining traction in recent years.

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