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Short-Term and Long-Term Change

Recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction or any other addiction such as sex addiction, pornography addiction or gambling addiction requires both short-term and long-term change.

Short-Term Changes

Short-term change are the things you do right now to stop drinking or using. These include such things as–

  • Quit using
  • Don't associate with people who drink or use
  • Don't go to places where alcohol or drugs are available
  • Don't tell war stories
  • Don't commit criminal acts

Long-Term Changes

Long-term change are changes you make in the way you live. These include such things as–

  • Attend treatment
  • Identify triggers to use
  • Develop appropriate coping responses
  • Complete treatment
  • Get a sponsor
  • Make friends with sober people
  • Attend support groups regularly
  • Find healthy ways to relieve stress and relax

Another Way to Think About It

Suppose you were in a serious accident. When the paramedics arrive, their immediate goal is to stabilize your condition, keep you alive and get you to a hospital. They do such things as stop the bleeding, temporarily immobilize any broken bones, give you an IV, restart you heart if needed, or give you mouth-to-mouth resuscitation if you're not breathing. However, these are just temporary measures mainly applied to your outside.

Once you get to the hospital, the doctors begin working on more long-term fixes. They take X-rays or an MRI, set broken bones, give you a blood transfusion or operate. You receive post-operative care, which includes rest, skilled nursing care and possibly rehabilitation therapy to strengthen weakened muscles. The goal is to fix you, inside and out.


To recover from addiction, you must first make superficial but critical changes that will get you in a stable place where you are not using. Only then can you look inside and make the deep, lasting changes that will allow you to remain clean and sober for the long term.

Sandra Nettles, LCSW, MSSW
Jamie Nettles, MS

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