The first year is the hardest, and arguably the most important. While sobriety and drug recovery are a lifelong process, it has to begin somewhere – and the numbers show that it’s during the first year that people are most likely to relapse, struggle, or even give up on their sobriety.
Getting through that first year won’t guarantee that you’re no longer addicted, but it is likely to bring you to a mental and physical space where you’re much more capable of dealing with any of the feelings and emotions that may arise due to your addiction, from cravings and urges to sudden irritability and old memories. Here are a couple of important tips to get your through that first and crucial year of sobriety.
Be Wary of the Pink Cloud
The pink cloud is a term used to describe the onset of happy and hopeful emotions often experienced at the beginning of recovery. When you first go sober and make it through the withdrawal phase, it’s easy to look toward the future and see endless possibilities unfold before you now that you’re free from the oppressive shackles of a useless addiction, and free to pursue the future you’ve always wanted.
But these emotions are, sadly, always temporary, and often coupled with a rollercoaster-like plunge into a deep abyss of shame, depression, and loneliness. The pink cloud is good in the sense that you have every reason to be hopeful for the future, but it’s often an emotional bubble before a troubling crash.
This might seem overly-cautious, but it’s a serious recommendation. Avoid new relationships until one year of full and complete sobriety. It’s a different matter entirely if you’re in an existing relationship with someone and they supported you throughout the recovery process, but in that case, it might be a good idea to temporarily avoid moving in together or give yourself enough time to focus on your sober living challenges before moving back in with your partner.
Having someone to be with in a steady and strong relationship is unbelievably valuable, but fresh relationships can often be very stressful and may lead to rejection and emotional turmoil, which is much harder to process in the beginning stages of recovery.
Don’t Buy Things
Or, to be more accurate, avoid major purchases. We all need food and clothing and gas money, but stay away from making new or major investments, getting a permanent place to live, jumping into a new business investment with your best friend, or otherwise moving a substantial amount of your wealth. Early sobriety is not the time to make life-changing decisions, especially ones you probably cannot take back, or ones that might leave you in financial ruin and oodles of distress.
Rehab Is Just the Beginning
Many recovering addicts go through a 30-60-day rehab program in the beginning of their recovery period, and while these programs are meant to prime you for what’s ahead, they are by no means the only programs you should consider attending throughout your recovery time.
Rehab leaves many people feeling confident in their future and ready to take on the challenges of sober living, but that feeling fades. It’s important to keep it alive, and to continuously nurture the motivation to stay sober. After rehab, consider enrolling in an outpatient program, in a sober living home, go to sober meetings, visit addiction specialists and therapists, and so on.
Focus on Diet
Some miss out on the difference that a better diet can make on a person’s long-term psychological and physical health, as well as recovery. A better diet should be a consistent one, one that a person can adopt and continue maintaining for years to come. Ideally, diets should also be crafted to avoid foods a person doesn’t agree with physically. Nutrition science is still a very green subject, and there is a lot to discuss and discover. Consider a hypoallergenic diet, and slowly reintroduce items that often cause food allergy issues in a variety of individuals, including grains, dairy products, certain meats, and more.
Focus on Exercise
Just as diet is important to helping the body recover from addiction, exercise can be an excellent emotional and physical outlet to help individuals find a way to release excess stress, manage their emotions during recovery, get a daily energy boost and mood regulation through regular release of endorphins, and find a physical hobby or sport they enjoy thoroughly. More than just keeping yourself in shape, exercise can drastically change a person’s mental health and help recovering addicts work against some of the emotional challenges they may be facing during early recovery.
Focus on New Friends
Old friends can sometimes be a problem when trying to recover from an addiction, especially if your old friends played a significant role in developing your old habit. It’s important to cut away from such friends and consider making new ones. Meeting new people isn’t just a good way to make new and lasting friendships, but it can also help you expand your horizons, make new experiences, open your mind to new thoughts and philosophies, and maybe encounter something fundamentally life-changing.
Focus on New Hobbies
Just as meeting new people can help you build new bonds and experience new things, finding new hobbies can help you take your mind off the addiction and create new memories of joy and fulfillment through a craft you enjoy, a physical accomplishment you have been seeking to reach, or a challenge you set out to master. Hobbies are about more than just having fun – they’re about finding a personal path towards self-improvement, emotional growth, and finding a way to develop as a person past who you were, and towards who you want to be.
Rehab is just the first step, and other recovery programs similarly help a person prepare for the future. But to make it through a year and further, consider seeking a one-on-one therapist with a history of working with recovering addicts. Real-time mental healthcare and advice can make a massive difference, not only over the course of year, but over several years.