The Challenges of Early Recovery: 5 Tips to Help You Stay Sober
Succeeding in Early Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Completing drug or alcohol treatment is a significant step in recovery, but it’s only the beginning of the journey toward long-term sobriety. Hard work lies ahead as the addict learns to live without turning to drugs or alcohol as their coping mechanism. Relapse is a real threat; the stresses of everyday life begin to attack and erode the recovering addict’s confidence. Preparing for challenges in early recovery helps you to handle them more successfully.
The Special Challenges of Early Recovery
Addicts find many tests of their resolve in early recovery. You can expect to encounter physical and psychological, or emotional stresses to challenge your sobriety in early recovery.
The physical dependence on drugs or alcohol may not immediately go away with treatment. These substances are hard to give up because they release much more intense dopamine levels, the pleasure-creating chemical, than are produced naturally. Depriving the body of this pleasure causes physical reactions that can be so uncomfortable, relapse is a real risk.
If you’ve been abusing drugs or alcohol as a way of dealing with difficulties in life, removing these coping mechanisms can leave you feeling emotionally raw. Without chemical substances to numb the pain of abuse, abandonment, or other trauma, the pain can feel more substantial and more debilitating. You can no longer ignore these problems but must face them head-on. This is why we put so much emphasis on individual and group therapy during and after your residential treatment program at Muse. It’s critical to begin healing these underlying causes of addiction so you can succeed in your new sober life.
5 Tips for Staying Sober in Early Recovery
Many addicts find that this time of early recovery is so tough they want to give up and give in to their addiction. In fact, this is the time when relapse is the greatest threat – when your defenses are weak and your memories of pleasure from substance use are substantial. Having some new coping strategies will help you to succeed in early recovery.
1. Learn What Triggers Your Addiction
Think about the times when you usually used drugs and see if there are common factors. Think of the people, places, and things that caused you to desire drugs or alcohol. Some common triggers include financial job stress, relationship problems, and being around other people using or drinking.
2. Recognize Warning Signs of Relapse
You are always at risk of relapsing, but there are some signs that your risk may have increased. Watch for signs such as finding yourself returning to old habits and ways of thinking, engaging in your old destructive behavior, or hanging around with your old drinking and drugging buddies.
3. Find Healthier Relationships
It’s probably apparent to you that you can’t hang out anymore with your friends from the dive bar across town, but your other relationships can be risky too – maybe even more so. Make sure they support your efforts to get clean and stay sober. If you find they cannot support your recovery, it may be time for new relationships.
4. Learn to Control Your Emotions
Anger can destroy your sobriety in an instant. If it’s your most common reaction to stress – or to being deprived of your favorite chemical substance – see an anger management counselor or support group. Other emotions can also get in the way of your recovery; any feelings expressed inappropriately or with exaggeration, even happiness, can hurt your progress. Learning to control all of your emotions will help you practice other forms of self-control.
Recovery is hard, and you will fail sometimes. But you’ll also succeed. It’s important to celebrate those wins in a memorable way – you don’t have to have a party every time you go a week without a drink, but you do need to recognize and reward your successes. It can be as simple as telling your family and as elaborate as enjoying a day at the beach or a walk in the park. Remember that every moment without drugs or alcohol is a reason to celebrate!