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What to Expect in Your First Sober Year

Written By: Harris House

Category: Alcohol, Blog, Recovery

Group of people drinking coffee in a cafe.

Surrounding yourself with sober people can help you stay sober, too.

So you’ve decided to seek treatment for alcohol use disorder or another addiction. Congratulations on this life-changing choice! If you’re like many people, you may be spending so much time focusing on what will happen during treatment that you’ve given little consideration to what your life will look like in the days that follow. Here’s a closer look at what to expect during your first year of sobriety.

Transitioning from Treatment

Treatment for substance abuse is an intensive process undergone under the care of a treatment team. In many cases, this lasts for 90 days. After this intense level of treatment, the transition from inpatient care to being on one’s own can be overwhelming.

However, there are some things you can do to lay the foundation for a positive transition. These may include finding a sponsor, attending 12-step meetings, and seeing a psychotherapist. In cases where the home environment is stressful, meanwhile, arranging a stay in a sober living house can help limit exposure to the temptations that may lead to relapse.

Embracing Abstinence Strategies

While substance abuse treatment can help retrain the brain to support recovery, the reality is that the neural pathways created by addiction remain. Therefore, relapse is always within the realm of possibility. As such, it’s critical for addicts to continue to use the strategies developed in treatment for responding to the environmental, psychosocial, and emotional triggers that might lead to relapse should a high-risk situation occur.

Woman talking on the phone.

When cravings strike, a call to your sponsor can be the support you need to stay on track.

Even with these strategies in place, avoiding triggering situations is a must. Returning to the places where you developed your addiction in the company of people still living that lifestyle is dangerous territory. Conversely, choosing to spend your time in alcohol- and drug-free environments is far less likely to jeopardize your sobriety and recovery. The good news? You may find you have more in common with these people now that you are sober.

It’s also important to accept that feelings of depression are natural and normal as the brain and body adjust to the absence of substances. Part of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), these feelings may also be accompanied by other symptoms, including sleep difficulties and irritability. While these symptoms do go away on their own for many people, for others, they persist. If your symptoms remain or worsen, talk to your healthcare provider.

One other thing to keep in mind about the early days following treatment? Even if you surround yourself with positive influences, cravings can and do happen — sometimes years after you’ve been in recovery. Ultimately, it’s not the cravings themselves that matter, but how you react to them. Again, whether you distract yourself with a favorite activity or call your sponsor to talk you through it, using the recovery strategies learned in rehab can help you stay strong.

Recognizing Relapse Warning Signs

When recovery is going well and milestones are being met, feel free to celebrate them. However, overconfidence is an ongoing threat to all addicts. Understanding the signs of relapse can help you proactively endeavor to avoid falling back on harmful behaviors. These include growing feelings of negativity, hopelessness, anger, or annoyance; complacency and/or overconfidence; entering risk situations; increased stress; and loss of interest in activities, family members, and friends. If you notice any of these warning signs, a prompt response can stop them from progressing to relapse.

No two individuals are the same; nor are alcohol treatment centers and programs. However, many recovering addicts do face similar challenges. The more you understand what to expect, the better prepared you’ll be to cope with what comes your way. Finding the right substance abuse treatment center is also vital. Contact us today to learn more about how Harris House has been leading addiction recovery in St. Louis for more than 50 years.

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