Early recovery is a challenging time – there is certainly no question about that. It makes sense, too – you are essentially learning to live an entirely new way of life; learning how to navigate day-to-day challenges without the use of drugs or alcohol. Most individuals who struggle with substance abuse initially started using chemical substances to cope with something. Maybe they were trying to cope with unresolved trauma, or with an underlying mental health condition, or with uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Maybe they were trying to cope with stress associated with school, work or an unhealthy relationship. Regardless of what issues the individual was trying to self-medicate, there is a very good chance that he or she did not employ healthy coping mechanisms and instead resorted to drinking or drugging in hopes of numbing unpleasant feelings. Because of this, one of the main goals of inpatient treatment is to equip individuals with the coping skills they need to overcome challenges successfully and without the use of drugs and alcohol. Of course, learning these skills and actively employing them in the face of adversity is no walk in the park. Practice does make perfect, however.
When it comes to effectively walking through challenges while maintaining sobriety, it is better to be prepared for what’s ahead. For this reason, we have compiled a list of 10 early recovery-related challenges that you are likely to face at one point or another. If you ever face a unique challenge that you are not prepared for, remember that there are many resources available to help you get through it successfully. Attend a 12 step meeting and share about what you are going through, call your sponsor and hash it out either in person or over the phone or set up an extra therapy appointment. There are many resources available to you – for a comprehensive list or for some additional suggestions, feel free to reach out to our team of treatment advisors at any point in time.
Getting Sober – A Challenge In Itself
Of course, getting sober is a challenge in and of itself. One of the most difficult things you will ever have to do is admit to yourself and to your loved ones that you have a legitimate problem and that you need professional help in order to overcome it. This is the very first step on the road to recovery, and it is often the most difficult. Why is getting sober such a challenge? It is mostly because addiction is a deeply psychological disease. Other diseases – like diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis or Crohn’s disease – are purely physical. Of course, suffering from any disease will have some psychological and emotional repercussions, but when it comes to diabetes or cystic fibrosis, individuals can effectively treat their conditions without constantly battling negative and self-destructive thoughts like, “You don’t need to take your insulin today, if you skip one injection it won’t be a big deal.” Or, “You don’t need physical therapy anymore, you’re fine. You’re all better.” When it comes to addiction, however, men and women who are in recovery might experience self-destructive thought patterns from time to time. They might think things like, “If I skip my 12 step meeting today it won’t be such a big deal. I can just go to two meetings tomorrow, or call my sponsor later.” Or, “I don’t need to call my sponsor tonight. I had a pretty boring day – nothing to report, really.” It is exceptionally easy for those in early recovery to convince themselves that all is well, and that they can take a “break” from their routine without consequence. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Sticking to a recovery routine is undeniably challenging, but it is absolutely necessary to the maintenance of long-term sobriety!
5 Early Recovery Challenges
- In early recovery, expect to grapple with some pretty uncomfortable emotions. There is a good chance that you did quite a lot of damage – to yourself and to your loved ones – while you were struggling with active addiction. The reality of this damage will come flooding back during the first couple months of your sobriety. Take these emotions in stride, and remember to go easy on yourself. You were suffering at the hands of a serious and completely legitimate disease. You are not a bad person.
- You will experience some growing pains. Becoming an entirely new person is never super comfortable. Recognize that you are growing and learning and evolving, and that undergoing such intense personal growth is not always pleasant! But it will be in the long run – everything you experience will be totally worth it in less than a year.
- Expect changes in your eating patterns. It is not uncommon for those in early recovery to gain a little bit of weight – and that is not something to stress about! You likely neglected your nutritional needs while you were actively using drugs or drinking. Allow your body the room it needs to heal, and remember that weight fluctuates and that is simply a part of life.
- You will have to learn how to effectively communicate your emotions. This will not come easily! Those who are struggling with active addiction go to great lengths to hide and stifle their emotions. When we express how we feel, we are more inclined to have our needs met. This will also help us establish and maintain healthy interpersonal boundaries. But again, healthy communication is a skill that must be learned, it typically is not second nature for those with a history of substance abuse and dependence.
- You might get bored. When you do get bored, you might be inclined to reach for drugs and/or alcohol in order to “make things more interesting.” You might reminisce about the olden days, the days when you could go out to nightclubs and bars, meet new people, dance, and get home at three in the morning. Guess what? You can have fun while in recovery! It is all about replacing your old behaviors and favored activities with new, healthy hobbies. Rather than go black out at the local dive bar, try taking a dance class or a painting lesson. Go to the beach and try your hand at surfing, or go for a long hike in the woods. The world is full of opportunities to stay entertained that don’t involve drinking or drugging!
Chapel Hill Detox – Medically Supervised Care
Medical detox is a necessary first step on every journey of addiction recovery, and at Chapel Hill Detox we are dedicated to helping each of our clients start off that journey on the right foot. If you have been suffering at the hands of a substance abuse disorder of any severity and you need help to stop, Chapel Hill Detox is available to help in any way possible. Our comprehensive program of medically supervised care was specially designed by a team of medical experts in order to provide a safe drug and alcohol withdrawal in a therapeutic environment. No matter how severe your substance abuse disorder has become, our team of dedicated professionals will work together to get you started on a fulfilling, lifelong journey of lasting recovery. Not only will we treat all symptoms of withdrawal as they arise, but we will help clients navigate all of the challenges – expected and otherwise – that go hand-in-hand with early recovery. For more information on our personalized recovery program, please reach out today.