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Learning to Thrive in Recovery from Addiction

young woman thriving after addiction recovery

For young adults that often fall into destructive patterns of drug and alcohol addiction, once they or their family begin to seek treatment an unfortunate label often becomes attached to them: failure to launch or failure to thrive. However, while these labels are associated with a negative connotation, they are often accurate descriptors of the young adult’s current situation as they live their life.

So, what do these labels mean? While not an actual or accepted diagnosis, the term “failure to launch” is a common description of a young adult who is struggling with the transition to adulthood. It is important to recognize while the term often refers to young adults that are in their early twenties (typically college aged young adults), the term can include older adults who suffer from a similar transition well into their late twenties and early thirties. Failure to launch often refers to young adults who struggle to leave the nest or the supportive environment of the home and support themselves emotionally, socially, and financially. Failure to launch is also sometimes known as “Peter Pan Syndrome”, referring to the famous character who never wanted to grow up.

Similarly, the term “failure to thrive” is also not an actual clinical diagnosis but refers to many of the same issues as failure to thrive. Often, the terms are used interchangeably. Failure to thrive also refers typically to young adults but can also refer to adults outside the traditional ages of what is considered a young adult (usually 18 to 25), who are still living at home, maintain employment, socially challenged, and/or engaging in late teen/young adult behaviors rather than moving onto a stage in their life where they are self-supporting.

Due to the situations that young adults find themselves in because of active addictive, it is little surprise that many young adults fall under the umbrella of failure to launch or failure to thrive. There are many factors that go into the reasoning and understanding of why a young adult suffering from substance use disorder and addiction are failure to launch or failure the thrive. Some factors may be physiological while some factors may be environmental. It could be a nature versus nurture, or a nature AND nurture scenario. Some of these contributing factors might be:

  • Depending on the age when a person begins using drugs and alcohol, the brain functioning may be impacting, whether mildly or severely
  • The effect drugs and alcohol have on the person’s brain and the impact substances have on the pleasure center, reward, and rational thinking of the brain
  • Mental health, mental illness, or emotional health
  • Negative coping mechanisms that have developed before addiction that often contribute to substance use disorder, or that may have developed in active addiction
  • An unhealthy family system
  • Enabling behaviors by parents, family, and/or loved ones
  • Parenting styles and approaches

While the above may be factors that contribute, it is important to recognize that they may not be to blame for a young adult who is failure to launch or failure to thrive, or if there is blame to be placed on certain behaviors by parents and loved ones, with appropriate support, those behaviors can be changed to help positively influence the young adult. Parents support their children in the best way they know how. They look to shield their children from pain or discomfort, protect their children at all costs, and remove challenges. In short, many parenting styles and approaches that have the intent to help a child thrive often times have the opposite effect, and in truth create an environment where a child fails to launch or fails to thrive. Normal concerns by parents can turn into overprotective parenting techniques, where a child doesn’t learn to overcome important challenges or misses out on opportunities for emotional growth. Children don’t learn resiliency, perseverance, how to overcome challenges or adversity, and overall, how to make their way through the world. A dependence develops, children don’t learn the necessary life skills, and parents continue to be caretakers long past the point where their child should be successfully living a life away from the nest.

Here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center, we understand that most young adults suffering from drug and alcohol addiction fall somewhere on the spectrum of failure to launch or failure to thrive. We also understand that the majority of patients are also dealing with a co-occurring mental health issue alongside their substance use disorder. Therefore, our long-term Community Living Treatment program has been designed to specifically address and support young adults that are failure to thrive or failure to launch. How is this accomplished?

First, our long-term extended care Community Living Treatment program is a community reintegration model of care where patients descend in phases through treatment while building up the tools, healthy coping mechanisms, reactionary techniques, and life skills to adequately become resilient and self-supporting. As patients move through treatment, all aspects of their lives are addressed. This includes the following:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Mental health disorders
  • Trauma
  • Family dynamics
  • Relationships
  • Education and academics (going back to school or finishing higher education)
  • Vocational skill set and/or career (basic job skills and employment or returning to the workforce)
  • Basic life skills development, including task orientation, hygiene, scheduling, budgeting, cooking, cleaning
  • Case management support, including legal issues
  • Personal recovery and development of a healthy recovery support system

The MARC extended care Community Living Treatment model is designed to help young adults that are failure to thrive or failure to launch begin living their life, with professional clinical, medical, and recovery support staff of MARC, while they are in treatment. This allows patients, through practical application and practice, to begin to break the cycle and patterns they were living with during active addiction, learn along to way to approach situations differently, fail and try again, begin to learn to succeed, and ultimately thrive in early recovery while still in treatment. Patients address their clinical issues, while going back to school or finding employment while in treatment; they learn to cook for themselves and clean for themselves; they learn budgeting and how to pay bills; they learn how to address life situations, have difficult conversations, and figure things out using healthy approaches; they reengage in healthy relationships; and they learn that they can live life successfully and be self-supporting all while in treatment. This gives them the tools that they need, and have already applied while in treatment, once they leave treatment, so that when they leave rehab their lives have already been working and they find they are already thriving.

Ultimately, MARC’s extended care model of treatment removes many of the barriers associated with shorter-term, acute addiction treatment models, not only teaching patients how to thrive in recovery but allowing patients to actually experience what thriving looks and feels like. The purpose being that a patient experiencing what a successful life feels like while in treatment, once treatment ends, continues to thrive in recovery.

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at

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