For someone who has completed treatment for substance use disorder, a big, bright world awaits. Life in recovery is full of new opportunities for personal and professional growth, assuming sobriety is sustained. Early recovery poses undeniable challenges. Some can be predicted and planned for, while others may seem to pop up out of nowhere. Having a solid strategy in hand for maintaining sobriety can help you navigate the often-bumpy recovery journey during that first year.
Challenges to Anticipate in the First Year of Sobriety
When you emerge from treatment you are likely to feel very pumped. Completing a treatment program gives you a strong sense of accomplishment. You feel better, you look better, and you sleep better. You feel excited about a new life in recovery and all the possibilities that lie ahead.
What many are not prepared for is the difficulty of remaining sober once you transition from treatment back to regular life. This early phase of recovery can present daunting challenges, no matter how detailed a relapse prevention plan you’ve made. Life is messy and full of surprises, so it is best to be proactive in planning for managing setbacks as well.
Some of the challenges common in the first year of sobriety include:
- Loneliness. Cutting people out of your life who were associated with the substance use era, and prior to making new sober friends, can result in a period of loneliness.
- Struggling with Employment. Some will have suffered career setbacks due to the substance use disorder and have to start anew. It can take time to land a good job, so in the meanwhile finances are strained.
- Lingering Legal Issues. Some may face legal issues to work through once they have completed treatment.
- Relationship Challenges. Even though sobriety is a positive development, it can have a profound impact on your marriage or close relationships, especially if the partner is not sober — if you’re single and newly sober, some experts even recommend not dating for a year.
- Trouble Managing Stress. Daily stress can become cumulative, resulting in increased feelings of anxiety. Stress is a primary trigger for relapse.
- Not Remaining Vigilant. Some may start off their recovery journey feeling all fired up, but then lose steam after a few months. This can lead to reduced engagement with the support community and continuing care efforts.
Any of these challenges in recovery have the potential to cause a relapse. Being cognizant of these common threats to sobriety allows you to double up on your recovery efforts.
Ways to Maintain Sobriety in the First Year
To offset the obstacles that may threaten recovery, consider the following tips:
- Continuing Care. It takes time to unwind the sources of conflict or pain that may have played a role in the substance use disorder, or to change the unhealthy thought patterns that led to self-destructive behaviors. Continuing care efforts, like outpatient therapy, support groups, and recovery communities, provide ongoing support when facing the setbacks so common in early recovery.
- Finding New Purpose. In many ways, substance use robs a person of having a sense of meaning and purpose in life. In recovery, it is important to redefine your purpose and then pursue activities and tasks that will support that purpose. Examine your passions, skills, and talents to help you discover a new purpose in life.
- Getting Healthy. One of the best ways to maintain sobriety is to rebuild overall wellness. A strong healthy body and a clear head can help you feel more in control and emotionally stable. Regular physical exercise helps improve strength, stamina, and mood. A nutritious diet can help heal the brain functions that have been depleted in substance use. Yoga and meditation help you to reduce stress.
- Staying Productive. One of the best ways to succeed in recovery is by keeping productive. According to a study published in the Journal of Addictive Diseases, employment is cited as a key factor in positive treatment outcomes. By helping provide an income source, structure, and an opportunity for social connections, productivity contributes to one’s sense of self-worth and value.
Being prepared for that first year in recovery can help you fend off any obstacles that may come your way. Arm yourself with these strategies to succeed in your recovery, and your new life.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle – “everything for recovery” – reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.