Is Total Abstinence Really Necessary in Recovery?

Complete and total abstinence from all mood altering substances allows a period of healing. The brain needs time to rest, habits are extinguished over time, and time transforms a person psychologically and physically. But not everyone in recovery from opiates believes that you have to be free from all substances. They may think it is sufficient to be free from their drug of choice, such as heroin or pain pills, while continuing to use alcohol or other drugs. Is total abstinence really necessary in recovery? Listen to people in this recovery group discuss their opinions on abstinence.

Discussion Guide:

Have you found that the use of other drugs, including alcohol, put you at risk of relapsing to opiates?

Do you choose to be free from all substances, or just opiates?  Which substances are you hanging on to? Why?

Do you still rely on drugs or alcohol to get through life’s hardships?

Do you have sufficient recovery tools to get through difficulties?

Supplemental Reading:

The University of New Mexico, Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions (CASAA) Readiness Ruler,


Credit and appreciation is given to author, Jason M. S. for his article “Complete Abstinence”. However, his identification is withheld for purposes of confidentiality.