Recovery is a process. If you’ve left treatment recently, you know that the hard work begins as soon as you commit to a life without alcohol or drugs.
Recovery can prove difficult in the early days, when you’re trying to create a new life of sobriety, possibly after an intervention from family and friends. We’ve captured some of the most common pitfalls whilst in recovery and give you some pointers on how to avoid them.
These insights stem from our own hard won experience and the advice of everyone who helped us in those early days of recovery.
Cravings and urges to drink or take drugs are often the most powerful cause of relapse. If you experience a craving, the first step is to reach out and talk to someone who understands. This might be a peer from treatment, a sponsor from the fellowship, or your counsellor or therapist. If you’ve been through alcohol rehab, make contact with the clinic and ask for support. Remember, if you’re in recovery, and have been abstinent for a while, a physical craving will not last long. It is the psychological craving and obsession that needs tackling – head on.
Some of the things that helped us:
1. Getting a sponsor for recovery
- Working through a 12 step programme.
- Service at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (great to alleviate self-obsession!).
- Staying connected to others in recovery (even when we want to isolate).
Stick with it, the cravings do pass. We promise you, if you stay on the right path, you’ll get to a point when you reach the end of the day and think:
‘Wow, i haven’t needed or wanted to drink or use today.’
2. Old ‘friends’ in recovery
Early recovery can be lonely.
It can feel like all the things you used to enjoy, and the people you once socialised with, are off-limits. If you’ve chosen to cut off old mates, who were nothing but acquaintances that you used and drank with, then stick with it. There was a perfectly good reason that you decided to make the healthy decision to distance yourself.
3. Finding new friends in recovery
This isn’t as difficult as you think it might be.
Learning how to have sober fun was something we had to work hard at but it proved to be really good for us.
Some of the things we tried after joining a local rehab facility:
- Mountain Climbing,
- Music gigs,
- Sky diving,
- Rock choir!
Each to their own. The point is, there’s a big, wide world out there and lots of interesting things to experience – things we missed out on in active addiction.
4. Being bored in recovery!
We were once told:
‘You’re not bored, you’re boring’.
Not so compassionate we thought. But being bored is a common complaint and a frequently cited pitfall in early recovery. ‘Euphoric recall’ may tell us that life in addiction was exciting and that we may miss the stimulation of alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behaviour.
At times like this we need to remember our step 1 and the fact that we were sick and tired of feeling sick and tired when we chose the road to recovery.
Next time you’re feeling bored, glance back at your using and some of the consequences you wrote about in your Step 1. Then set about doing something productive or something fun! We only live once and if, like us, you’ve been given a second chance, make the most of it.
5. Loss of family during addiction
Many of us lost our families, wives, husbands and children during our active addiction. Whilst many of us have repaired the damage we did, and some of us have become reacquainted with our families, many of us are still estranged.
For us, our 12-step groups serve as a surrogate family. Like a strong and loving family, they don’t judge and merely want to offer you the kind of support and encouragement that’s needed. Fellow recovering addicts and alcoholics, we learnt, understand us more than anyone else.
6. Loss of job during addiction
Many of us lost our jobs in active addiction and some of us struggled to find a worthwhile purpose in life.
You may need to re-train to enter a new field. Many of us went back to college or university and rediscovered the joy of learning something new.
Don’t beat yourself up over financial insecurity. For the time being, you’re building the foundation for a clean and sober future.
Many of us stopped chasing money in recovery and took on a more altruistic direction. Trust that if you focus on your recovery, doors will open and the answers will come.
Routine is important and in the absence of a job, this can be lacking. There are lots of voluntary opportunities. If you went through treatment, maybe start at your clinic. Giving of yourself and helping the still suffering is perhaps the most rewarding work you can do in our view.
Some of Wayne Dyers books helped us change self-defeating thinking patterns and find a new direction in our lives and careers. Watch Wayne Dyers in action below.
Most of all…enjoy your recovery.
These are some of the common struggles in recovery – and some coping methods that helped us. The list goes on and recovery is unique to each individual…everyone has their own individual challenges.
The main thing to remember is that recovery is possible and you are not alone.
We promise you that recovery will offer you so much more than freedom from active addiction. As we change and grow, a new life emerges – one that we never thought possible. Take the limits off and go for it with gusto.