Yes, and no. It depends on who you ask. Many people and programs hinge their definition of whether or not someone is in recovery based on their total abstinence. However, there are other definitions that include a broader picture of the overall quality of life.
For example, some hard-line people believe that someone isn’t in recovery if they’re using Suboxone instead of heroin, or if they used to have a serious alcohol problem but now can drink socially without any issues. What if they used to be addicted to meth, but now occasionally smoke marijuana in a state where it is legal?
If I use once, do I have to start over?
This also depends on who you ask, and sometimes it depends on whether your are currently in treatment, and at what level of care. The phrase “relapse is a part of recovery” came about because it has been such a common occurrence, though many will acknowledge that it doesn’t have to be.
If it is a single use event (rather than a binge of several days) then detox may not be necessary, but most people who track the number of days of sobriety will restart after that day. This doesn’t mean that the person is no longer in recovery. If there are a series of single use events in a relatively short period of time, it may mean that you need to get back into a higher level of care for further treatment.
Although abstinence is the most common goal in recovery, it’s not the only thing. As long as you’re honest with yourself, your intentions and how you feel, you’ll have a good internal guide for following the best path for yourself and your family.