Abstinence vs Recovery: Difference and Comparison

Abstinence and recovery are terms that are very commonly used when talking about de-addiction. Roughly, they refer to coping mechanisms that help a person heal from their dependency on drugs and alcohol.

It is a popular belief that both involve the process of quitting drugs. However, they are broad concepts that sheathe various aspects of rehabilitation.

Key Takeaways

  1. Abstinence means completely refraining from a certain behavior, such as substance use.
  2. Recovery is an ongoing process of overcoming addiction or behavioral problems.
  3. Abstinence is a component of recovery, but recovery also involves personal growth, support, and coping strategies.

Abstinence vs Recovery

Abstinence is the act of refraining from using a substance, allowing the body to detoxify and heal from the physical effects of substance use. Recovery is the process of addressing the underlying causes of addiction and learning to live a healthy, balanced life without relying on drugs or alcohol.

Abstinence vs Recovery

The meaning of abstinence is to restrain oneself from a certain indulgence. It is the individual practice of quitting drugs and alcohol. People may enroll themselves in a detox program for help.

However, relapse is still quite common. This is because abstinence-only focuses on leaving the substance and does not address the underlying causes of the addiction.

Recovery is the process of bringing a change to the lifestyle and behaviors of an addicted person. It is a practice that focuses on overall well-being rather than just the physical aspect.

The underlying causes of the addiction are dealt with by therapy and other treatments. This helps address the core of the problem, which makes relapses uncommon.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAbstinenceRecovery
MeaningAbstinence is a self-imposed restraint from indulgences such as drugs and alcohol.Recovery is a change in lifestyle and behavior as a part of de-addiction.
ProcessIt involves quitting addictive practices and remaining sober.It involves going to therapy and getting support for overall well-being.
HealingThe healing is limited to the physical body.A person heals physically, mentally, and spiritually.
SupportPeople with abstinence avoid interactions with other people.People in recovery get all the support they need from others.
RelapseThe person is more likely to relapse.The person is less likely to relapse.

What is Abstinence?

Abstinence is a self-imposed restraint from indulgences such as drugs and alcohol. It is a conscious act the person chooses to undergo in order to live a sober life.

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Unlike repression, abstinence has health consequences for a person. However, since the underlying causes of the addiction are not dealt with, there are chances that the person might relapse.

A person chooses to do so because of the negative effects that drugs and alcohol have on them. However, he can also be forced to become sober because of being removed from the drug environment.

This means that there is no way for them to access drugs. Therefore, they do not have a choice but to go sober.

Several situations trigger a relapse in a person who undergoes abstinence. These include stress, boredom, drug re-exposure, or even drug-associated cues.

The longer a person in abstinence stays away from drugs, the more he craves them. This is known as the incubation effect.

If the person has a severe case of addiction to drugs like opium, it may even cause adverse health consequences. In such cases, going cold turkey is pretty dangerous.

Therefore, medical help and therapy is always the better option, as love and support play a major role in de-addiction.

no more alcohol

What is Recovery?

Recovery is a process of changing the complete lifestyle and behavior patterns of an addicted person. The healing is focused on the body as well as the mind.

Moreover, there is an aspect of spiritual well-being that is even more helpful. Instead of focusing on the past, the person has an opportunity to create a new future.

The process of recovery includes several therapies and treatment programs. Unlike abstinence, in which a person isolates himself, recovery involves getting support from others.

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Therefore, the process takes place in groups. Rehabilitation centers are a good example of this, where people have medical and personal support from peers.

Recovery is the next step in de-addiction after abstinence. Once the physical body is healed, different tools and mechanisms are used to support a person.

These are done in order to help him stay focused and engaged in his new life. It may involve finding a new job, housing, or even joining a community.

The process only works when the person is fully committed to improving their life. This takes a lot of willpower, inspiration, and encouragement from others.

Only through this can long-term sobriety be achieved. Since the underlying cause of the addiction is dealt with during recovery, the chances of relapsing are minimal.


Main Differences Between Abstinence and Recovery

  1. Abstinence is a self-imposed restraint from indulgences such as drugs and alcohol, whereas recovery is the complete change in lifestyle and behavior of an addicted person.
  2. Abstinence only involves quitting addictive practices and remaining sober, whereas recovery involves going to therapy and getting support for overall well-being.
  3. Abstinence focuses on physical healing, whereas recovery focuses on physical, mental, and spiritual healing.
  4. Abstinence involves isolation and avoiding interactions with others, whereas recovery involves support and communication with others.
  5. A person is more likely to relapse in case of abstinence, whereas the chances of relapses after recovery are very less.
Difference Between Abstinence and Recovery
  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01688638008403787
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acer.13604

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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