If you have completed a substance abuse program, CONGRATULATIONS!
That is a major achievement and you should be proud of the hard work you have done on yourself and the commitment you have shown to your sobriety.
The skills you have learned to employ to cope with your daily life, and the healing from the effects trauma and addiction have had on your life, will hopefully give you the best possible start for your recovery journey.
What to Expect During Early Sobriety
You have likely experienced many ups and downs during your time in treatment. In early sobriety, you can experience a wide range of side effects and symptoms. Some of which may have gone away already, and some of which you may still be suffering from.
It is common for people recovering from alcohol addiction to experience early sobriety mood swings, fatigue, and depression.
Early Sobriety Fatigue
These symptoms can be exhausting and can be difficult to deal with, especially when they are present for 90 days or longer. This is often referred to as “early sobriety fatigue” because all the effort you are putting into staying sober is wearing you down. If you are still suffering from these symptoms after you have completed treatment, we encourage you to speak with a medical professional who may be able to suggest options that can help you in the long-term.
Early Sobriety Tips
A good way to prepare for what might come up is to start identifying your triggers.
I believe it was Lord Davis who said, “If you hang around the barbershop long enough, sooner or later, you are going to get a haircut”.
Leave those past people, places, and things, in the past. Yes, it can be difficult when our family members or good friends are still abusing substances and we need to set a boundary with them. But we are setting ourselves up for failure in early sobriety by thinking we can hang out with our old friends in our favorite bar without drinking, or thinking we can sit in the living room with our family watching a movie while they smoke weed and not be tempted.
Being Around Alcohol in Early Sobriety
The fact of the matter is, being around drugs and alcohol in early sobriety can trigger you. You may never be able to be around alcohol or your drug of choice again without the thought running through your mind of using just one last time.
Also, you may have really enjoyed collecting shot glasses or bottles of wine, and your favorite sweatshirt may say “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere”, or you may not want to take down your cool Bob Marley tapestry, but know this, these are environmental cues that can result in cravings and are speaking to your subconscious mind every time you see them. Pass them on.
Some other common early sobriety triggers that may not be as easy to eliminate from your life are:
- Emotional distress
- Relationship issues
- Financial or job problems
While we realize it is not rational for you to quit working completely, or to live a life entirely stress-free, if you can identify with some of the above triggers, and believe they are your biggest risks, you may want to create a plan to prepare for or avoid them as much as possible.
Pay Attention to Your Warning Signs
Relapse starts in your emotions and mind way before you take a drink or drug. A person’s relapse warning signs may differ, as we are all unique.
But here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you identify if you are experiencing some of the common relapse warning signs for people in early sobriety:
- Are you returning to addictive thinking patterns?
- Are you engaging in impulsive and self-defeating behaviors?
- Are you seeking out old people, places, or things where alcohol and/or drugs are present?
- Are you not keeping your commitments or behaving less responsibly?
- Are you following a thought pattern that leads to alcohol and/or drugs being your best escape from pain?
If you answered yes to any or all of the above questions, we want to encourage you to reach out to your sponsor, therapist, or an accountability partner who knows you well and ask them to give you feedback about what is going on with you. It can’t hurt, right?
Sometimes just sharing our stresses, struggles, and frustrations with others can be just the medicine we need. Spending time with supportive loved ones and planning healthy activities can help keep your emotions, mind, and body happier and in check.
How to Stay Sober: Finding Your Balance
We may have gotten used to the chaos and drama that the disease of addiction had brought into our lives, but that doesn’t mean we liked it.
With a bit of sobriety time under your belt, you have probably found that there is a lot to be said for quiet nights at home watching Netflix after a hard day’s work. You may have discovered that spending time in nature again rejuvenates and grounds you. And spending quality time with family, healthy friends, and your pet ferret Fernando brings you a feeling of peace and comfort you had long since forgotten.
While everyone’s needs will look a little different, here are some examples of how to stay sober by fully engaging daily and weekly to keep balance, structure, and joy in your life:
1. Work: Putting energy into fulfilling work can make you feel accomplished and productive, not to mention it pays the bills.
2. Spirituality: For religious and/or spiritual folks, dedicating time connecting with a higher power and feeling something bigger than yourself can bring peace and calm to your days. It can remind you that you’re not going through life alone and that you’re loved for just being you and nothing else.
3. Recovery: Spending time at recovery meetings or working the steps with your sponsor every week will help you keep growing and healing. This focuses on the mindset that it takes work to stay sober, understanding that you are never fully recovered.
4. Family/Friends: Connecting with the people you consider your family and loved ones can be quality time spent. Isolation can be an old bad habit that needs to be kept in check to stay healthy.
5. Me time: Setting aside time every week for yourself can help rejuvenate you. This may be to do self-care, exercise, hang out with friends, or just veg out and do nothing. This helps you not feel overwhelmed and better able to keep your other commitments without building up resentments.
Recovery at OTR
Hopefully, some of the early sobriety tips above will help you feel more confident going forward with your recovery. OTR believes in setting our clients up for success during detox and recovery programs by helping people build skills that they can put into practice in early sobriety.
If you have questions or would like to speak with us at Oregon Trail Recovery, please don’t hesitate to call us at (855) 770-0577 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. We would be happy to listen to your concerns about staying sober.