Difference Between Abstinence and Recovery (With Table)

In the context of addiction treatment, the phrases abstinence and recovery are frequently used interchangeably. Generally speaking, they refer to coping methods that assist a person in recovering from their drug and alcohol addiction. It is widely believed that both procedures merely involve quitting medicines altogether. On the other hand, they are comprehensive notions that encompass a wide range of characteristics of rehabilitation.

Abstinence vs Recovery

The main difference between abstinence and recovery is that abstinence is more of a self-imposed scenario that involves mending that is only restricted to the physical body. On the other hand, recovery requires healing that is not limited to the physical body. On the other hand, recovery entails the mending of one’s bodily, mental, and spiritual selves, as well as a significant degree of help from others. In most cases, abstinence is required before a person may begin to heal.

The definition of abstinence is the act of refraining from engaging in a particular indulgence. It is the practice of abstaining from drugs and alcohol individually. People who need help can enroll themselves in a detoxification program. Relapse, on the other hand, is still highly prevalent. Abstinence does not treat the fundamental causes of addiction, as it solely focuses on removing oneself from contact with an addictive drug.

An addict’s recovery is defined as the process of bringing about changes in their lifestyle and behavioral patterns. It is a method that emphasizes entire well-being rather than only the physical element of one’s health. This contributes to addressing the root cause of the problem, which makes relapses less common.

Comparison Table Between Abstinence and Recovery

Parameters of ComparisonAbstinenceRecovery
MeaningAbstinence from indulgences such as drugs and alcohol is a self-imposed restriction on one’s activities.De-addiction includes a change in one’s way of life and behavior, referred to as “recovery.”
ProcessRefraining from addictive behaviours while being sober is essential.Therapy and assistance for overall well-being are essential components of this process.
HealingThis type of healing is only applicable to the physical body.A person’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being improves when healed.
SupportPeople who abstain from alcohol or other drugs tend to avoid social situations.Recovery clients receive all of the assistance they require from others.
RelapseThe individual has a greater chance of relapsing in the future.The individual has a lower likelihood of relapsing.

What is Abstinence?

Abstinence from indulgences such as drugs and alcohol is a self-imposed restriction on one’s activities. To be sober is an intentional decision made by the individual to lead a sober life. In contrast to suppression, abstinence has beneficial effects on the individual. Nevertheless, if the underlying causes of the addiction are not addressed, the person is at risk of relapsing into addiction.

Most people who use drugs or drink alcohol do so because of the negative consequences drugs and alcohol have. As a result of being separated from the drug environment, he may be driven to seek sobriety due to this. In other words, they will have no way of getting their hands on any medications, and the only option left for them is to abstain from alcohol.

Stress, boredom, re-exposure to drugs, and even drug-associated cues are examples of such triggers and consequences. As a person in abstinence goes without drugs for a more extended period, his need for them grows stronger. The incubation effect is what is referred to as this phenomenon.

This can have severe ramifications for the person’s health, mainly if the opium addiction is tough. Cold turkey is quite harmful under these circumstances. As a result, medical assistance and treatment are always preferable because love and support play a significant role in the recovery process from substance abuse.

What is Recovery?

Recovery is a process in which an addicted person’s entire way of life and behavior patterns are altered. Furthermore, a spiritual side to well-being is even more beneficial than the physical aspect. The healing process consists of several different therapies and treatment programs. Recovery differs from abstinence, in which a person generally isolates himself in that it entails receiving help from others. Therefore, the practice is usually carried out in groups of people. Rehabilitation centers, where patients can receive medical and personal assistance from their peers, are an excellent illustration of this.

Following abstinence, recovery is the next step in the de-addiction process. Once a person’s physical body has been cured, various instruments and procedures assist them. These activities are carried out to assist him in remaining focused and interested in his new life. It could entail finding a new career, locating housing, or simply becoming a community member.

The method will only be effective if the person is genuinely committed to making positive changes in their life. This requires a great deal of determination, inspiration, and encouragement from others. It is only via this process that long-term sobriety can be attained. Because the underlying cause of the addiction is addressed during recovery, the likelihood of relapsing is relatively low.

Main Differences Between Abstinence and Recovery

  1. Abstinence is defined as a self-imposed restriction from indulgences such as drugs and alcohol. Still, recovery is defined as a complete transformation in the lifestyle and behavior of a drug or alcohol addict.
  2. Abstaining from addictive behaviors and keeping sober is required for abstinence; however, seeking treatment and receiving support for one’s complete well-being is necessary for recovery.
  3. Abstinence emphasizes physical healing, whereas recovery emphasizes the healing of the whole person, including the mind, body, and spirit.
  4. Abstinence is characterized by solitude and the avoidance of social interactions, but recovery is characterized by support and communication with others.
  5. The risks of relapse are higher when one is abstinent, whereas relapse after recovery is meager.


Millions of people worldwide are affected by drug and alcohol addiction. Rebuilding the situation is complex, and it will need a lot of guts, effort, and inspiration to accomplish. Both abstinence and recovery are essential components of the de-addiction process. It is critical to understand the distinction between the two, particularly if a loved one attempts to achieve long-term sobriety.

One significant difference between the two approaches is that abstinence focuses solely on mending the physical body. In contrast, rehabilitation focuses on the complete well-being of the addicted person. The underlying causes of addiction are rarely a source of concern when someone is abstinent. As a result, a relapse is prevalent. While various therapies and treatments focus on the core of the problem, the odds of relapsing are extremely low during recovery from addiction.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03750.x
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01688638008403787