If recovering from addiction was as easy as “just stopping” – no one would be addicted. Unfortunately, some people in active addiction who are ready for a change may hope that their lives will instantly become perfect from the moment they stop drinking or using drugs, or even from the time the graduate from an addiction treatment program. When they find this to be untrue, they can struggle immensely with early sobriety. The first days, weeks, months and even years of sobriety can pose a huge challenge. However, these are some of the most important times. Recovery from an active drug or alcohol addiction won’t happen overnight – but with the right tools, effort, mindset and support – it will happen. We asked some of our Facebook friends and alumni of our programs for their best advice for those fresh to recovery, and here are some of the responses:
“Don’t get comfortable with your sobriety, the second you get comfortable is the moment you potentially are going to relapse.”
What are your goals in recovery? To live with purpose? To reconnect with your spouse or children? To get a new job or a promotion? Whatever outcomes you are hoping for and working towards, keep in mind that in order to maintain those goals and outcomes, your number one priority each day is your recovery. When you are new to sobriety and addiction recovery, forget your long “To Do List” and work on you. Even on the days that you feel like you’ve got a firm grip on your recovery, don’t take it for granted. There will be times that you’ll be tempted to test your recovery: You’ll feel strong and empowered, and will be willing to subject yourself to one of your triggers in order to “prove” yourself. Don’t. In early recovery, do yourself a favor and distance yourself from things that pose a threat to your sobriety.
“Surround yourself with positive people, but that will tell you no and hold you accountable for your potential thoughts.”
Positive social interaction is vital to addiction recovery and a balanced life. Healthy relationships can help combat some of the risks of relapse and provide essential support and guidance to promote ongoing sobriety. In addition to supporting your health and your decisions, the people you are close with should also hold a responsibility to encourage your success by holding you accountable for your decisions. In active addiction, it’s likely you surrounded yourself with people you knew would cave to your requests and demands, and in turn, supported your drinking or drug using. In recovery, the people you allow in your life shouldn’t pressure you to use, and shouldn’t accept lies or excuses. These are the people who will motivate you to keep pushing forward.
“Work the steps and work with others!”
A popular Twelve Step saying goes, “To keep it, you have to give it away.” The person who benefits the most from acts of service is typically the person offering it. Working with others can remind you of where you came from. By spending time with those who are still struggling to overcome addiction, it becomes harder to forget the pain of the disease – and encouragement to stay on the path of recovery. In recovery, we develop a wealth of experience that will be of benefit to others following the same path. Whether you choose to work with other people battling addiction through Twelve Step or other support groups, voluntary work with other people in active or recovering addiction, visiting addicted people in prisons, joining online or social media forums and offering advice and support.
“The difference maker for me has been living in a sober living community where I am held accountable and have support.”
Regardless of your previous living situation – sober living homes and communities after addiction rehab can make a transition into a new life, easier. After completing an addiction treatment program, your life is going to completely different that what it was before you got there. The intermediate phase can help you remain on the right path by:
- Learning new “tools” for staying sober in the real world.
- Continuing to stay disciplined with a defined set of rules.
- Preventing isolation
- Surrounding yourself with others who are going through the same struggles
“Pick up a book, start writing things down.”
For many people in any stage of recovery, writing can provide an outlet to vent concerns or frustrations. Instead of internalizing our problems, writing allows us to lighten our load. In addition to that, writing can allow us to connect with a part of our thoughts we wouldn’t normally share through talking with other people. If you keep a journal, writing things down on paper can help put problems into perspective and allow us to think more objectively and critically.
“Wake up, get out of self, and see how much I can pack into the stream of life.”
In early recovery, your natural instinct may be to isolate and grieve the loss of old friends (including your drink or drug of choice.) However, this is the opposite of what you need to be doing for your health and sobriety Embrace a new hobby or interest and allow yourself to let go of your expectations. Get up, get out and enjoy your new life. Remember, remaining busy can help distract you from your cravings – and help keep you focused on the positive things in life.
“Share your story, don’t be ashamed of your history it may actually empower others, and very very most of all: Have compassion on others we may want to judge.”
Your story makes you who you are. We share our experiences, or strength and our hope because our stories of addiction and recovery are what bind us together. When we share our stories, we find unity. When we share our stories, “we” become “we”. By sharing the stories of your journey, you’ll not only help others, but you’ll also be better able to understand why and how the addiction took control of your life. This understanding can help us to alleviate the feelings of isolation, guilt, shame and self-hatred that can plague us throughout our addictions – and even into recovery. Recovery is a process. And like any other process – it has to start somewhere. There will be good days, not-so-good days, and downright bad days. No matter where you are in the recovery process, however, know that you are accomplishing an astounding feat each day, each hour – and even each minute.