Do people achieve their goals in recovery? A new study from the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors looks at the lives of people who have resolved their addictions and data about their lifestyle, economic situation, and other factors of their life after addiction. The research,  primarily from people who joined 12-step groups, looks at the achievements of people who get and stay sober for a significant period.

What happens to the majority of people with addiction who manage to get and stay sober? The majority — 80% — continue to grow and change, and the majority accomplish what they consider to be life goals.

Recovery and Life Goals Research

The research about people’s lives comes from the 2017 National Recovery Study. The landmark research accumulated data from 23.3 million Americans who “consider themselves to have resolved a significant alcohol or other drug problem.”

Unlike other studies, this study looked at quality-of-life issues, such as personal accomplishments and satisfaction. It also looked at the economic achievements among people in addiction recovery. Many personal accomplishments included career goals, starting a family, and other life goals that people worked over time to achieve.

“Individuals in addiction recovery face numerous challenges, yet despite this, findings from this study show that most individuals can rebuild important aspects of their lives,” said David Eddie, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Recovery Research Institute and leader of the study. “And perhaps more importantly, we saw that these achievements were associated with greater happiness, well-being, and quality of life.”


Disparities For Achievements Still Exist

The researchers admit that disparities in outcomes exist, especially when broken down by race or socioeconomic disadvantages. “Recovery is achievable for everyone, and the majority of Americans who resolve their substance use problem go on to accrue numerous life achievements. At the same time, there are many individuals who face greater barriers and hardships as they attempt to rebuild their lives, and as a society we should be addressing the barriers that hamper their rebuilding efforts,” Eddie said of the challenges many people face.

Overall, however, people who stay sober say their lives improve. Hopefully, this means that they can break down some of the barriers. The government can also play a significant role in providing resources to those at a disadvantage.  This means treatment resources, education opportunities, and other programs to help people recover from a substance use disorder.