Expectations in Addiction Recovery

Managing Your Expectations after a Drug Treatment

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Unrealistic Expectations in Addiction Recovery

Entering substance use disorder treatment is a serious step in one’s life. It is also a moment that brings hope, doubts, and quite a bit of anxiety — not just for the individual but also for loved ones. Unrealistic expectations increase the risk of failure. For this reason, it is crucial to understand what the program provides and the additional steps you will need post-treatment.

Realistic expectations and a clear knowledge of what the treatment process involves are the foundation for achieving success.

Substance use treatment is complex and requires the full cooperation of the individual being treated.  Eliminating anxiety, frustration and realizing success begins with having the proper knowledge and appropriate expectations.

Entering Substance Abuse Treatment

Substance use often leads to chaos, which, in turn, causes people to spiral out of control, resulting in damaging every aspect of their lives. Treatment is often delayed for several reasons, including fear and shame, despite the individual and their loved ones being aware that treatment is needed.

An effective detoxification treatment program is an excellent opportunity to reverse a destructive course and create a healthy, new path in life. Being free from alcohol or drug dependence allows the individual to focus on emotional healing, as well as root causes of the issue that led them to seek out illicit substances in the first place. 

Adequate mental health support can help people navigate life by assisting in:

  • Breaking old habits and patterns that keep the individual stuck
  • Identifying healthy relationships
  • Addressing co-occurring mental health issues
  • Learn new ways of thinking and coping with stress, anxiety, and sadness
  • Creating positive lifestyle changes

A good therapist is highly beneficial in helping people achieve all of the above and managing a smooth transition back to a healthy life. Additionally, therapeutic support is essential in breaking free from substance use.

Although embracing treatment is often a time full of hope and promise, it’s crucial to have realistic expectations, not only regarding what a substance use program can offer but how life will be following treatment.

Even if, following treatment, an individual follows the proper steps and has ample support, recovery can still be difficult, with some days being more challenging than others.

Substance Use Treatment Results  

Everyone has problems in life, but the solutions become much more complex when substance abuse is involved. People struggling with substance abuse are not inherently more complicated; however, drugs and alcohol affect the brain to such an extent that making healthy and sustainable decisions becomes a challenge.

Many people struggling with addiction believe, or hope, that they will solve all problems and when they get sober. Although it is primarily true that many problems get resolved, and life improves once addiction is overcome, some life issues will remain, and others will appear.

Challenges and complications are a normal part of life and learning to work through difficult times effectively is part of maturing.

While drug treatment will not solve every problem, it may provide the much-needed emotional and physical stability needed to tackle issues in a healthy and gratifying way.

Realistic Expectations Quote from Clare Waismann

Managing Recovery Expectations

Many people rely on substances for immediate reward. Sustaining sobriety can be a rewarding path that requires effort and patience; however, as with other life achievements, the rewards are often not immediate.

It is vital to a healthy and sustainable recovery that all people involved in the recovery effort — from the treatment provider to loved ones — have realistic expectations before, during and, more importantly, after treatment.

Having well-defined expectations prevents anxiety and frustration while providing a sense of ease and peace of mind. Being comfortable in our skin is a well-calibrated sense of what one can expect from life, others, and oneself.

Recovery Is Varied and Nuanced in Each Individual

Of course, it would be lovely if life only got better from the moment of sobriety. Unfortunately, that is not the nature of life for anyone. Life is constantly changing, full of ups and downs and highs and lows. One day might be great, and the next day may be challenging. Life takes careful and constant steering to avoid disappointment and frustration from expectations being set too high or too low. Having the proper perspective of goals and accountability is incredibly important in maintaining a healthy and productive life. 

Expecting overnight success or immediate rewards will only result in an unsustainable rush, accompanied by unwanted ups and downs and eventual anxiety and disappointment.

Addiction Recovery Quote from Clare Waismann


Remember, recovering from addiction is not just a matter of abstaining from substance use; it takes fundamental life changes to achieve and maintain the desired goal, including:

  • Addressing any co-occurring mental health issues
  • Learning new coping skills to deal with sadness, anger, and frustration
  • Creating a solid and healthy social support system
  • Rebuilding trust
  • Learning to communicate effectively
  • Making positive lifestyle changes

Having healthy and stable relationships is essential to a happy life. As human beings, we need to feel loved, heard, and understood. Having solid support through this rollercoaster called life gives us the anchor we need when life shakes us up and sets us adrift. It also allows us to support and anchor to someone else, which provides us a wonderful sense of purpose.


It is essential to be optimistic after treatment as it is perfectly natural to expect life to get better once you become sober. Expect challenges and take things one day at a time, sticking to a healthy path even when you feel tired. These are the keys to a successful recovery and a healthy life.

Call now to speak confidentially with an addiction expert.

Committing to overcome addiction should not have to mean relinquishing comfort, privacy, or self-respect. Why not experience individualized care and comfort? If you're ready to take part in a world-class private treatment program, it's time to call Domus Retreat.
Call 1-866-713-3869


Reviewed by Clare Waismann, M-RAS / SSUDCC II, Founder of Domus Retreat®
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice nor a recommendation. Consult a healthcare professional for guidance and treatment options. While we strive to maintain high editorial standards, please be aware that information may become outdated. Domus Retreat, its employees, agents, and associated individuals are not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences resulting from the use of the information provided.