Defining success in recovery has a baseline of sobriety. Every consecutive day where sobriety, meaning total abstinence from drugs and alcohol, is achieved should be considered a success. It is a success. People who become addicted to drugs and alcohol become chemically dependent on drugs and alcohol. Chemical dependency means that the brain and the body can no longer properly function without the presence of chemical substances. Waking up, walking to the bathroom, going to work or school, eating- every function becomes dependent upon drugs and alcohol. At a certain point in their addiction, it is possible for people to experience chemical dependence severely. As soon as they wake up, they must take a drink or a drug in order to gather the ability to get out of bed.
To live free from the crippling restraints of addiction is success. Waking up without the need to drink or use drugs is a success. Being able to go an entire day, a full 24 hour period, without a drink or drug, is a success. Once that baseline of success in recovery is consistently and consecutively achieved, other successes can, and do, begin to build. More successes come into play which shape the unique and individual experience of recovery for each person. Each day is then defined by new successes, small and large.
From the beginning of recovery to the end of recovery, success and the idea of success will change. In early recovery, almost all requirements of like feel like an overwhelming accomplishment. Personal hygiene, balanced nutrition, preparing meals, going to the grocery store- simple things are whole new experiences without drugs and alcohol. Just like staying sober on a daily basis, these small achievements become commonplace activity, paving way to bigger challenges. Success might mean a job, a promotion, a career change, passing a course in college, or getting a degree.
Not everyday in recovery will be full of monumental successes, unless you intentionally see them. Once the novelty of new sobriety starts to wear off and recovery becomes routine, it is easy to feel as though every day should include a trophy-deserving moment. Everyday life simply isn’t the case. Addicts and alcoholics in recovery have a unique position, however, because of the extraordinary accomplishment of living sober. Everyday in recovery is a trophy-deserving experience and a high mark of success. All of the other successes are just decorations on the cake.