It would be nice if there were some magical water running through the pipes in treatment facilities. You could drink it, bathe in it, make coffee and tea with it, and, after 28 days or so of being submerged in its healing alchemy, getting through your first year sober would be a walk in the park, with unicorns.
While going to treatment gives you a solid box of tools and knowledge that will keep you sober when put into practice, it is not magical. It’s hard work. While at first treatment may seem scary or burdensome, it can quickly become a refuge. Once you leave and face the day to day realities of life, all those things that were easy to do – meditation, meetings, groups – become more challenging to accomplish when combined with everyday obligations.
While everyone is different, some things are universal in recovery, and some mistakes that, with a little vigilance, you can avoid so that you can have an easier road to that first-year celebration. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but it will always be worth it.
Find Your Tribe
Many people fear that, once they get clean and sober, life will be flat and joyless. There won’t be anything to do anymore. Everything will be shades of black, white, and gray, with no color, no fun. That is because most people in the throes of addiction have lost the capacity to socialize. They don’t know how to interact with people anymore unless they have a substance inside of them.
Whether it be 12-Step meetings, outpatient, or some other type of support group, it is vital to regularly gather with people who share things in common with you, particularly your disease, for several reasons:
- Other people can help you understand the implications of your condition.
- You will be better able to handle problems because others in the group have probably encountered the same or similar roadblocks.
- Getting insight into handling common issues in early recovery, such as anxiety and depression.
- Having the chance to share your feelings without fear of judgment.
- Learning how to accept your alcoholism or substance use disorder better.
- Avoiding the temptation to slide back into isolation, a warning sign of relapse.
- Learning to socialize sober.
There is no disputing the fact that addiction is one of the loneliest diseases in the world. When addicts and alcoholics finally surrender and get help, they find themselves surrounded by people who not only accept them but understand what they’re feeling. This aspect of sobriety is a gift, one of many, and one of which you should take full advantage.
Understand Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
There is a saying, “Just because the monkey is off your back, that doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” So although you may have finished detox long ago, your mind and body are still healing.
Long-term addiction has a toxic effect on the body; it takes a while to balance itself out. As this rebalancing occurs, you may be subject to a cluster of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS.
Not everyone has to deal with PAWS, but it is not uncommon. Typical symptoms include:
- sleep difficulties
- mood swings
- lack of energy or motivation
- trouble concentrating
While PAWS rarely extends to physical symptoms that eventually dissipate, it can still be just as uncomfortable as acute withdrawal. This feeling of discomfort is enhanced when the person is not expecting it and does not know how to cope with the symptoms, putting them at risk for relapse. It is essential to talk to your counselor, Personal Recovery Assistant, sponsor, and other sober support to create the best management plan. Remember, PAWS will not last forever.
Create a Routine
New sobriety brings changes, but even positive change can feel overwhelming. Creating new routines, patterns, and establishing structure in your life will help you adjust to a life in recovery and provide essential predictability when facing all of these exciting, challenging changes.
Routines also help you to prioritize and thus enhance and strengthen your recovery. They enforce healthy habits, reduce insecurity, and provide balance. Routines also create a rhythm for your days, necessary when the mind and body learn to expect and adjust to a new behavioral pattern. When you think of your body as a clock, your routine is setting the clock for the usual times to sleeping, eating, exercising (or a lack thereof); in early sobriety, you are resetting the clock.
Some of the things you should consider when you are assessing your daily routine are:
- eating patterns
- sleeping patterns
- interests or hobbies
- personal hygiene
- personal quiet time (self-reflection/meditation – however you check in with yourself)
- participating in your sober support network
Keep in mind that unstructured free time can be dangerous in the early days of recovery. Boredom and restlessness, two emotions notoriously tricky to manage in early sobriety, can combine to make life challenging to navigate. Having a routine that you stick with can eliminate a lot of the guesswork and keep you on the right track.
Once you leave residential treatment, the real work of recovery commences. Suddenly, you’re outside in the world, with all that entails. All the tools that you acquired during your stay must now be put to work. While it may seem intimidating, there is nothing more fulfilling or satisfying than meeting the situations that life presents and managing them sober. You can do this. But the best part is, you don’t have to do it alone. At Hired Power, you will find Personal Recovery Assistants and various other staff who can help you get through some of life’s hurdles. Recovery is a team effort; we are ready to help you win. You can reach us today at (800) 910-9299. Let’s talk about how we can bolster your sober support and get you to that first-anniversary celebration. Happy, joyous, and free is the goal; you can achieve it, and we can help.