You’re Doing Something Huge—Make Sure You’re Prepared!
Entering recovery is a huge change in the way you live your life. Everything from how you schedule your time, to who you hang out with, to what places you frequent, is different. And as with any major transition in your life, whether it’s starting school or becoming a parent, it can seem scary and overwhelming at first.
A lot of that scariness comes from not knowing what to expect or how you should go about the process. But luckily for you, you don’t have to figure that all out on your own.
You’re not the first person to go through this, and there’s a wealth of helpful advice and guidance out there for you from those who came before you, and from those who helped them along the way.
So, to help you get a clear idea of what to expect and what to aim for, here are some of the most important things to know about the first year of recovery.
When you’re in your first year, your goal should be to build and maintain a stable environment where you can focus on yourself. This is the underlying principle for every item on this list, and nothing will help you stick to your recovery more than learning how to organize and schedule your life.
The obvious first step for this is your weekly meetings. But it’s also helpful to try to plan out your day, week, or even month in advance so that you know how you’ll be filling your time. On a basic psychological level, this provides a comforting sense of control over your life.
And with a routine set and your activities planned in advance, you won’t be as likely to find yourself with nothing to do on a Friday night. Times like that can be especially risky in terms of potential relapse, so it helps to avoid them by trying to keep yourself occupied.
2. Try to Avoid Dating
We know, this is a tough thing to ask. Hear us out.
As we said, your goal is to create a stable environment where you can focus inward. Dating runs counter to that goal in a number of ways.
For one thing, you generally should be avoiding unnecessary changes in your life. That includes things like moving and changing jobs, but also new romantic and sexual relationships. What you need is stability, and the unpredictability of dating can destabilize your life and make it harder to keep firm footing.
After all, imagine what it might be like to try to resist cravings during a breakup. The ensuing heartbreak, loneliness, or depression would threaten your recovery by tempting you to fall back on old coping mechanisms.
Even if that doesn’t happen, it still probably wouldn’t be healthy.
Yes, it can be tempting to find comfort in a new love interest, especially with someone else also in recovery. But this wouldn’t really ease your transition—you’d just be replacing one dependence with another.
Before you get into a new relationship, you should first focus on getting to know your new self and developing your own healthy coping mechanisms. Otherwise, you might use them as a crutch, and they might take advantage of your vulnerability.
3. Don’t Take on New Responsibilities
Likewise, you want to maintain stable relationships in your work life as much as in your personal life.
Again, this might seem like something that holds you back from things you want to pursue, and it’s not always something you can stick to. In his first year of recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill W. himself “changed jobs, moved home, became a sponsor, went on long trips alone and created a fellowship.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s wise for you to try to take on new roles like that if it can wait. Taking on new work duties, or starting new long-term, time-consuming projects, is a surefire way to disrupt your organization and planning.
An increase in your workload like that can really stress you out, and if you get stressed out you may feel tempted to relax in order to unwind. So, at least for the first year, try to take it easy on pushing your career forward and focus on this side of your personal growth instead.
4. Be Mindful of Your Health
That leads us into our next subject: your health.
Long after the fact, your body can continue to experience the residual effects of addiction. You may be weak, anemic, or have trouble defending against infections.
To combat this, you might consider sleeping a lot more, as well as eating a healthy diet. Learning recipes and cooking for yourself can not only help in this regard, but also provide an enjoyable and therapeutic outlet for your time.
Even with that taken care of though, you may be suffering from more pervasive complex health issues as a result of your addiction. One possible condition is post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), a psychological condition that begins just after acute withdrawal ends and can last weeks, months, or even longer.
It’s characterized by subtle but significant symptoms like mood swings, strange dreams, and problems remembering things and thinking clearly. These can frustrate you and your support system and lead eventually to relapse unless you discuss PAWS with your support system and have a plan of attack if these symptoms stick around.
Another psychological condition you may have to cope with is depression. This commonly occurs for a few weeks among those in early recovery, but goes away with time. But again, if this persists, you need a support system in place to help deal with it.
5. Spend Time With Supportive People
And that support system has to be built around the right people.
We know that at first that makes us sound like parents warning teenagers not to hang around “the wrong crowd,” a warning few of us probably heeded ourselves growing up. And we know that maybe you’ve had relationships with some of your loved ones for years. You’ve lived and laughed with them, grown intimate with one another, and created a lot of memories.
But what you need to assess is whether they help build you up or tear you down.
It can be tough to accept what seems like a condemnation of the people you’ve grown close to, of course. But your friends with whom you’d always drink or get high may not be a constructive influence to keep around. The same goes for family members who are users or who don’t offer emotional support.
They may be good people at heart, but if you can’t imagine being around them without the object of your addiction there too, or if they don’t offer you encouragement or other support, then you need to look elsewhere for your support system.
Not to worry, though—once you’re settling into your new lifestyle and learning about who you’re becoming, you’ll find that there are plenty of people who are more than happy to get to know you, support you, and even love you.
If you’re looking for such people, it can be helpful to join a community for those in recovery. One such community is New Directions Addiction Recovery Services. New Directions, in addition to providing treatment services and advocating for recovery programs in the state also runs The Other Side, a sober living bar in Crystal Lake, IL that gives you a place to go out, socialize, attend group events in a safe and supportive environment.
And if it’s your home life that’s putting you at risk of relapse, New Directions is opening a sober living home in Crystal Lake, IL to create a stable recovery-friendly home environment for residents.
So stop by The Other Side or give us a call at (779) 220-0336. Because when you set out on the path to recovery, you shouldn’t have to walk alone.