The first year after turning away from a toxic life is a year marked with milestones. But the journey toward this important goal is one that can be rife with struggle—be it anxiousness, mood swings, emotional lows, or nearly overwhelming temptation. Having an idea of what to expect when you choose to abstain from drugs or alcohol can help your chances of success. Keep these points of advice in mind to help combat the struggles of this crucial year.
It’s okay to feel low: According to The Fix, “the neurological systems are damaged by the use of alcohol and drugs, making newly recovering individuals more susceptible to effects like anxiety and depression.” Depression is extremely common for those in recovery. It can be distracting, and you may feel the urge to resort to old coping methods, but remember that this blueness will pass within the first few weeks and is very normal. Involve yourself in group therapy and allow yourself joys like going for walks, reading, taking crafting classes, or whatever else you enjoy. Recovery is hard work and takes a lot of concentration, so don’t be afraid to reward yourself with little pleasures. Of course, if you begin to feel depressed for months on end or begin to contemplate suicide, reach out to a doctor or therapist as soon as possible. Call the National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK any time of day or night.
Urges are normal: Once you begin recovery, it’s important to understand that urges for drugs or alcohol are normal. How you respond to those urges is the important part. Your body will experience cravings through withdrawal, and only once your body is physically used to the absence will the urges subside. That isn’t to say they’ll stop altogether. “It’s often said that if you can make it through 20 minutes (about the length of time a craving lasts), you’ll be fine. Distract yourself with games, reading, chores, work, exercise, calling a friend or your sponsor, or prayer. Even a simple counting exercise can break the spell,” according to addiction.com.
Be confident, but not overly so: After nearly a year in recovery, you may begin to feel proud and confident regarding what you’ve accomplished—and rightly so! However, feeling overly confident and putting yourself in a situation that could potentially disrupt your progress is never a good idea. Continue to avoid triggers and trigger situations and do not stop in your recovery program even if you feel you’ve got it all down.
Choose friends wisely: During recovery, you’ll rely a lot on yourself, your goals, and your therapy. However, you’ll also want to—and should—rely on those around you like friends and family. Having friends who only knew you before recovery may hinder your journey to being clean. If certain family members and/or toxic relationships drove you to use, it may be wise to reassess those relationships. Steer clear of anything that influenced you before you chose to recover. Be upfront, be brave, and be confident with old and new friends about where you are on your recovery journey. Surround yourself with those who will support you and admire your decision to get better.
Recognize signs of going backwards: Relapse, which is most common within the first 90 days of recovery, is always in the back of the mind of someone who has chosen to turn away from drugs and alcohol. Remember that the longer you are clean, the less likely relapse becomes. Taking recovery one day at a time, gaining support from friends and family, and relying on group therapy or programs can all have a positive effect on your journey to recovery. If you do slip back into old habits, forgiving yourself is important. Lean on your support systems and get back on your journey.
Have fun: Don’t punish yourself by hiding away during your first year in recovery. Treat yourself at the spa; go to a concert or theme park; go out during restaurant week; head outdoors; or take up a new hobby. Being in recovery doesn’t mean isolating yourself for fear of triggering old habits. All of these experiences without drugs and alcohol may be new—so let yourself be open to a first-time experience.
Look toward new goals, and celebrate hitting others: Every milestone during your recovery—be it the first time at work without using, the first outing at the beach with new group friends, or the first weekend you didn’t feel the urge—is worth celebrating. Each time you reach those goals, set new ones. Creating action plans like finishing a classic novel or running two miles during a new exercise routine will help you continue to build your confidence in your recovery, as well as give you bigger and better milestones to chase. You’ll be on the path to the life you want with each new experience and each new goal.
About the Author:
As Executive Director of Beach House Center for Recovery, Robert Yagoda brings more than 10 years of combined clinical and administrative experience in facility-delivered, drug and dual diagnosis treatment. Robert is a licensed mental health counselor and certified addictions professional. What motivates him most is seeing clients make groundbreaking strides in recovery, knowing he was part of their growth and success.