THE BLOG
07/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

What is Recovery From Addiction?

We professionals in the field of addiction, have not even come up with an agreed upon definition for recovery. This means we can't really study the effectiveness of various treatment modalities because we haven't defined success.

In June of 2007, at the Betty Ford Clinic, a team of top notch addiction professionals assembled to come up with a working definition of recovery. I was lucky enough to hear Dr. Mark Gold speak at the recent conference I attended on obesity and food addiction. He was one of those professionals entrusted with helping us define "recovery" from addiction.

I asked him a very simple question, and got back this long research article about how we are just now trying to define recovery. My question was, "If you are an addict, can you ever really get well or are you just destined to manage your tendency to be addicted to things/people/substances forever?"

The bottom line is; we don't know the answer to that question. The definition of recovery the committee came up with was this "a voluntarily maintained lifestyle composed characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship." It involves trading the easy drug/sex/gambling/food/shopping/alcohol high, with something more difficult to attain that is also more meaningful and lasting. Recovery does not just mean sobriety. It is a more holistic experience that involves improving one's life in various ways.

We do know that some people are more genetically prone to addiction than others. That genetic predisposition, combined with environmental factors, leads one to addiction or away from it.

At this point, the addiction community has chosen to remain silent about nicotine addiction. Many addicts in recovery still smoke like chimneys, but consider themselves to be abstinent. I believe this will change as we, as a society, move away from seeing smoking as socially acceptable.

So I am putting it out there and asking you: Can you go from being an addict to being a non-addict? If so, how have you done it?

If you would like to participate in the research for Irene's new book on the process of weight loss, please visit http://www.eatingdisordertherapist.com/ and take the survey.

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