When you first start the long journey to sobriety, you’ll likely face struggles that will make you want to relapse. Staying strong, resilient, and keeping loved ones around for support are the keys to staying sober.
Navigating the first weeks of recovery once you have completed a treatment program can be challenging. Recovery from a life of addiction to drugs and alcohol is not just about getting clean and sober. If it were that easy, then most addicts would have stopped their addictions the first day they felt trouble or physical withdrawal symptoms. So how do people get through the first day, week, and months in early recovery? The most important need that all recovering addicts and alcoholics require is support.
Support is your Best Path to Sobriety
All successful recovering addicts and alcoholics will explain that the way they stay clean and sober is by attending support groups, having friends who are also in recovery and continuing their aftercare with a professional. Once you have finished your treatment program, you will likely feel a little lonely without the people that you grew to know in treatment. It is that very reason that many people relapse after they leave treatment. In treatment, they had friends, a supportive counselor, and felt happy, clean, and sober. Once they return to their home, they do not have the same support or immediate friends in recovery. The “people, places, and things” from your old life begin lurking again and knocking at your door.
Getting yourself to a meeting as soon as possible and introducing yourself as a new person in recovery is the fastest way to make friends who will support you. All twelve-step meeting attendees know that recovering addicts and alcoholics depend on relationships that are fun, relatable, and supportive. By introducing yourself to the group, everyone there will know that you are there to stay clean and sober and that you are someone who needs them, as much as they need you.
Another type of support that is necessary during the first weeks of recovery is the support of a counselor or therapist. Your drug treatment program should complete a referral for continued care with a new counselor who specializes in addiction recovery before you leave. Intensive outpatient and outpatient drug treatment programs are a step-down level of care that strengthens your early sobriety.
This part of the personal recovery journey is critical. Most, if not all, addicts and alcoholics have deep emotional concerns that must be addressed with a counselor or therapist. A stay at a treatment program may uncover a history of abuse, neglect, or trauma that needs further discussion. Additional counseling for these types of issues will guarantee that nothing gets left out of your recovery, helping you feel satisfied in your sobriety.
Continue with your Intensive Outpatient Program
Another way to navigate through early recovery is to depend on continuing care at an IOP program. IOP stands for an intensive outpatient program. IOP’s have strong success rates with helping addicts and alcoholics remain clean and sober for the long term. Their success lies in the fact that these programs allow people to work and attend school throughout the week and then go to IOP during their time off. IOP programs are extremely beneficial because they offer group counseling, individual counseling, relapse prevention, and teach new ways to enjoy recovery.
An obvious benefit of attending an IOP program is that the environment is supportive, and clients make great friends to attend meetings with, go to movies, enjoy sports, and exercise, and develop a network of support. IOP programs allow individuals in early recovery to feel accepted if they feel stressed out or depressed during their recovery. These emotions are normal, and an IOP provides a setting to let them out. The flexibility of IOP programs is also a plus. IOPs typically offer groups throughout the day and week, so this allows the client to decide what works best for their new routine in recovery.
Some addicts and alcoholics also support their recovery by living at a sober living home while they attend IOP. Sober living homes are very beneficial for newly recovering addicts. These environments are lively, and lifelong friendships are created amongst residents. It is recommended that the type of sober living environment you live at be the same sex. One struggle of early sobriety is romantic relationships.
Romance is a great thing if you are prepared for it. Most addicts and alcoholics need time to discover who they are clean and sober. It is not recommended that anyone with under a year in recovery get involved in a romantic relationship. The feelings and pressures are often too much, and this is a great cause of relapse. Giving yourself time to adapt to life and to realize that you can manage life without drugs and alcohol is a giant accomplishment. Why create a potentially stormy and emotionally charged romance during a time of personal healing – doesn’t seem to make sense although many people attempt it and unfortunately fail and relapse.
The way a newly recovering addict or alcoholic feels in general in the first few months can be scary. Learning how to go to the grocery store and not go down the beer and vodka isle or admire the pharmacy are real challenges that all addicts and alcoholics have faced in their recovery. It may also be difficult to face certain family members or friends. And it will be hard to see old places and locations where you used to get high or drink.
You’ll Crave What You Shouldn’t Have
Cravings for alcohol and drugs are normal, and the best way to deal with them is to talk to someone about them. Tell on yourself! By holding in your thoughts or fantasies about using or drinking, you are repeating a pattern of falsely representing yourself to the world. It is hard to feel secure in admitting that you have cravings to people who are not in recovery. Recovering addicts and alcoholics will regularly talk about how ‘they were just sitting there one day and all of a sudden they thought about a drug or getting drunk.’ This is normal, and it is healthy to tell people who understand about it.
The best thing about recovery is that with the help of a supportive community of other recovering addicts and alcoholics, people in new recovery have others to talk about their feelings and experience. Another goal that is recommended is that people in early sobriety get a sponsor and work the 12 steps or another program with them. A sponsor is a person who will understand how crazy, angry, and upset you are. A sponsor is also someone who can guide you on how to handle nearly anything.
The goal of recovery is to be able to help others who need it eventually. By giving yourself enough support through friends, meetings, counseling, and sponsorship, you can navigate the ups and downs of your first few days weeks and months of recovery much easier. In the beginning, remember to take it easy and allow yourself to be human and always to approach life one day at a time.