Demands of Early Recovery
Giving up an addiction and building a new life away from substance abuse involves a great deal of work and effort.
The first few months of recovery can be demanding and there may be times when the individual can feel like they are being pushed to their limits. The fact that recovery can be so challenging already means that it is important that people do not take on too much. The other reason for why taking on too additional work is a bad thing is that it can act as a distraction.
No Major Life Changes in the First Year
It is usually suggested that those people who are in early recovery should avoid making any major life changes within the first year. This is to ensure that the individual will not be taking on too much. It is vital that they able to do the work needed to establish a successful recovery and any additional changes will act as a distraction. The type of major life changes that people should avoid in early recovery include:
- Taking on additional responsibilities at work or apply for a promotion
- Changing job or career
- Going to college
- Getting a divorce or separation
- Having a baby
- Starting a new romance
- Launching a new business venture
- Going on a long trip that will involve being away from recovery resources
- Moving house
- Moving to a new country
In some instances these changes will be unavoidable and so long as the individual has enough support they should be able to manage the extra stress. The main advice is that people do not voluntarily much such changes when they do not really need to. The first year in recovery will pass very quickly and it is best to delay major changes until the individual is feeling stronger in their sobriety.
Deciding on How Much is Too Much in Recovery
It can be difficult for people in early recovery to access how much is too much. The advice here is that their number one priority should be doing all those things that are going to help them keep sober. They will also need to take on hobbies and interest that make life interesting and prevent boredom. Other than this there will be no need to take on additional work or responsibilities. Sometimes people can feel like they should be doing more, but it is important to question these inner drives. Of course people should avoid the other extreme where they only do the bare minimum in recovery – this will only produce the bare minimum results.
Progress Not Perfection in Recovery
It is often said that recovery is a process and not an event. People do not become addicts overnight and it is unreasonable to expect that everything can be put right in a few weeks or months. It can take years before the individual has reached a stage of emotional sobriety and even then they will still have plenty of work to do. The individual will so progress over time, but they should not put unrealistic demands on themselves. The danger of doing so is that it can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.
So long as the individual is slowly making improvements over time this is all that should be expected. There is also likely to be times when people feel they have taken a step backwards but this can be part of the process as well. The aim is always progress and not perfection over time.
Dangers of Taking on Too Much in Early Recovery
The dangers of taking on too much in early recovery include:
- Adapting to life in sobriety can be a challenge. If the individual takes on additional work it can become overwhelming.
- A common reason for why people take on too much in early recovery is that they are attempting to hide from their problems. By keeping busy the individual is able to ignore the things that they should be more concerned with.
- Taking on too much can turn out to be a relapse trigger. The individual becomes increasingly challenged by their workload until they decide that recovery is too hard and that they have a justification to relapse.
- These additional demands may mean that the individual is too distracted to concentrate on their recovery. Their priorities will become mixed up, and this will put them in a vulnerable position.
- When people are still new to recovery they can lack insight into their needs and goals in life. This means that they are liable to make rash decisions that they later regret but have to live with.
Dangers of Romance in Early Recovery
One of the riskiest things that people can do in early recovery is to begin a new romance. This can be a distraction, and if the romance goes sour it may mean that the individual is at risk of relapse. The first few months of recovery are often referred to as an emotional rollercoaster and beginning a new romance is likely to make things worse.
Those who are new to recovery may use this relationship as an addiction substitute and develop a bit of an obsession. The fact that the individual is still vulnerable in their new life means that the ups and downs of the romance will affect them hard. There is also the problem that those who are still adjusting to sobriety can be prone to making rash and unwise decisions – including who they choose as a romantic partner.
How to Deal with the Demands of Early Recovery
There are things that people can do to increase their ability to deal with the demands of early recovery such as:
- The challenges of early recovery are easier to handle if the individual has support. This support can come from a therapist, a recovery fellowship, or friends who have already established themselves in sobriety.
- It is advisable for people to learn relaxation techniques.shtml as these can be great for dealing with stress. Even some simple breathing exercises can be highly effective and worth doing.
- If the individual is starting to feel overwhelmed by things it is vital that they seek support right away. This could involve speaking to a sponsor or therapist.
- Bad days do occur in recovery and it is important to keep these in perspective. So long as the individual remains sober they are already doing well.
- Having fun is a part of the recovery process as well. If the individual finds activities to do that they actually enjoy they will find it easier to commit to them.
- The no pain no gain philosophy does not always apply to people in recovery. Sometimes this pain can be a sign that people are doing something wrong or that they have taken a wrong path.
- Keeping a recovery journal can be highly useful for people. This will not only give them the opportunity to chart their progress but it can also work as an outlet for worries and concerns.
- It is important that people keep healthy in early recovery so that they have the strength to deal with the demands that will come their way. This means that they should eat a healthy diet, get a good sleep at night, and get enough exercise.
- Knowledge makes things easier to manage. It is vital that the individual learns all they can about the demands of recovery – particularly issues surrounding the relapse process.
Hope Trust puts in place a short and long term goals strategy for clients prior to discharge. They are encouraged to focus on recovery for the first one or two years and avoid any stress.