Tips for Early Sobriety – A Guide to Getting Through Early Recovery
Recovery is a beautiful journey of healing, self discovery, and self growth that can dramatically increase the quality of life of the person recovering. That being said, recovery or more specifically early recovery like many other types of growth is not always comfortable and at times can be extremely difficult. We do not say this to discourage you or to scare you, but to provide a realistic expectation. We feel that it is most effective to understand and prepare for the challenges of early recovery ahead of time and to make a plan for how to overcome difficulties in early recovery. We have assembled a list of some of the most common issues a person in early recovery may face below.
- Depression in early recovery
- Anxiety in early recovery
- Insomnia in early recovery
- Fatigue in early recovery
- Cravings in early recovery
- Relationships in early recovery
- Boredom in early recovery
- Old people, places, and thin
What is Considered Early Recovery
Before we take a closer look at some of the challenges individuals may face in early recovery, it is important that we define what is considered early recovery. While there is no defined period of time that constitutes early recovery that is agreeable to everyone, we will defer to the experts to get a better idea.
The Betty Ford Institute, a universally recognized authority and substance abuse issues, defined early recovery or early sobriety as lasting no more than one year.
While we are aware this is a debatable timeline, for the sake of this article, we will use the first year as our benchmark for early recovery or early sobriety.
Depression in Early Sobriety
Depression is early recovery or early sobriety is something that many people will have to deal with. Some common symptoms or depression include, sadness, lethargy, feelings of hopelessness, and excessive sleeping.
Depression is early recovery or sobriety can at times be a direct result of the damage alcohol or drugs have done to the brain. It can also be a co-occurring issue that is not directly related to alcohol or drug use. If you believe you may be suffering from depression it is important you discuss these symptoms with a medical professional or counselor immediately.
Anxiety in Early Sobriety
Anxiety in early recovery and early sobriety is also fairly common. Some common symptoms of anxiety include, excessive worry, restlessness, agitation, feeling nervous or tense, increased heart rate, and increased perspiration.
Much like depression anxiety could be a direct result of the damage drugs and alcohol have had on your brain or it could be a co-occurring issue that is not directly caused by drugs and alcohol. If you feel you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder we strongly encourage you to speak with your counselor or a medical professional right away.
Insomnia in Early Recovery
Insomnia is extremely common especially in the first few weeks of early recovery or early sobriety. Insomnia can present as either an inability to fall asleep or an inability to stay asleep. As with depression and anxiety, insomnia can be a direct result of drug and or alcohol use or a co-occurring issue not directly linked to alcohol or drug use. If your insomnia is disrupting your daily life we highly recommend you speaking to your counselor or a trusted medical professional as soon as possible.
Early Sobriety Fatigue
Fatigue in early sobriety can take many forms. One of the more common forms of fatigue is fatigue in the literal sense. Feeling physically fatigued is something many people go through in early sobriety as their body heals from the havoc alcohol and drugs wreaked on their bodies. It is also possible to suffer from fatigue in a less literal sense such mental and or emotional fatigue. Mental or emotional fatigue can occur in early sobriety or early recovery as a result of the rigorous internal work, therapy, self help groups, and just general personal growth. Healing does not always feel good, and can sometimes leave a person feeling run down. The good news is this typically passes fairly quickly. In the meantime it is important to give yourself a break, be realistic with your expectations and to practice self care.
Cravings in Early Sobriety
Perhaps the most common and most detrimental of all the early recovery issues covered in this article is cravings. What are cravings? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines cravings as “ an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing”.
Cravings for alcohol or drugs can be overwhelming and overpowering especially to someone in very early recovery. A few coping strategies we recommend to deal with a craving are, getting up and moving around, calling a close friend or family member, calling someone who is also in recovery and understands what you are feeling, mediation, prayer, eating a piece of candy or chocolate. Essentially when you are feeling a craving you want to do something to distract yourself long enough for said craving to pass. We acknowledge that this is easier said than done but it is critical to getting through early recovery or early sobriety.
Things to Avoid in Early Sobriety
While many of the issues we have discussed up until this point have been issues that for all intents and purposes are out of our control, the rest of the list will be issues we have more control over and some we can outright avoid.
Relationships in Early Recovery
In many addiction or alcoholism recovery circles, new romantic relationships in early recovery are strongly discouraged. This is for a variety of reasons but there are two that stand out as most important in our eyes.
- Early recovery is a period of intense self discovery and self growth. Adding a new romantic relationship to the mix can be extremely distracting, and take the focus of one’s own self discovery journey. It is important to note that any major lifestyle changes are discouraged for this reason, it is not just romantic relationships.
- While new romantic relationships tend to “feel” very good especially early on, ending a romantic relationship can be extremely upsetting and difficult to cope with even for the most stable of individuals. For someone in early recovery who is likely fairly fragile something like a break up could set them down a path to relapse.
Boredom in Early Sobriety
Boredom in early recovery is another extremely common occurrence but the good news is it is very much an avoidable issue. First of all let’s address why boredom in early recovery or sobriety is so common. Is it because recovery or sobriety are boring? NO! The reason boredom is so common is because for many individuals suffering from substance abuse, chaos has become the norm. After extended periods of this chaotic lifestyle, our “baseline” changes. This causes us to feel bored when living a more normal lifestyle because our brain has become so accustomed to chaos. It is important to note, this inherent boredom tends to subside sometime in early sobriety or early recovery. In the meantime, staying busy with treatment, self help meetings, work, hobbies, spending time with healthy friends, and many other activities are great ways to fight that inherent boredom.
Old People, Places, & Things
Old people, places, and things have caused more relapses than we could even count. These are things your brain subconsciously associates with drugs or alcohol and can trigger intense cravings which lead to relapse. Some examples of old people, places or things are; an old drinking buddy, the bar you frequented, the area you used to purchase drugs in, the person you used to person drugs from, drug paraphernalia etc. We could increase the list ad infinitum but you get the idea. It is strongly recommended to avoid these things especially in early recovery or early sobriety.
Things to do in Early Sobriety
We have spent a lot of this article discussing things to avoid in early sobriety or early recovery. Below is a list of things we strongly encourage you TO DO in early recovery or early sobriety.
- Attend treatment and follow clinicians recommendations (PHP, IOP, OP)
- Attend meetings
- Develop a support network
- Get a sponsor (or mentor)
- Attend 90 meetings in 90 days
- Find a new healthy hobby
- Prayer (this does not need to be religious but it can be if you are so inclined)
As always, if you are someone you know is struggling with alcohol or drug use, please reach out to us for a confidential and no obligation consultation. We can reached at 888-698-3554 option 2, or directly at 201-663-2914.
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