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Recovering addicts may also struggle in their first year of sobriety because they lack the coping skills they need to deal with normal life challenges and stress — and the first year of recovery is a time of high stress. Most newly sober addicts are still reeling from the loss of what had become their only source of pleasure and comfort — substances. In addition, they’re also dealing with the emotional fallout of their addiction and may be facing, for the first time, the emotional pain that first led them to abuse drugs and alcohol.
In order to make it through the difficult and emotionally fraught first year of recovery, addicts need to attend an inpatient rehab program. However, the work doesn’t end when rehab does — in many ways, it’s just beginning. Addicts leaving rehab need to have a continuing care plan in place that includes the 12-Step program, outpatient counseling and a basic understanding of self-care.
Inpatient Treatment Can Make or Break Your Recovery
For the addict who truly wants to get and stay sober, inpatient treatment should be the first step. In order to be effective, a residential addiction treatment program should last at least four weeks. Many programs last as long as 90 days, and some will allow patients to remain in the facility for as long as they and their counselors see fit. A 90-day stay in an inpatient rehab facility can lay a solid foundation on which you can build a lifetime of sobriety. Not spending enough time in inpatient treatment, or skipping it altogether, however, can derail your recovery before it even has a chance to get under way.
Spend Time in Sober Living
You should think twice about heading straight home and jumping right back into your regular routine the minute you leave your inpatient treatment facility. If you’re like many recovering addicts, you’ll be facing the demands of the world while completely sober for the first time in years. You need some time to adjust to functioning in society again in a sober environment where you can continue to enjoy some protection from temptation.
Entering a sober living facility for a month or two will make it easier for you to focus on re-adjusting to normal life, since you won’t have to worry so much about resisting temptation. It will take the pressure off your loved ones, too, since they won’t have to worry about watching you for signs of substance abuse. Many sober living homes also offer some level of addiction counseling.
Participate in the 12-Step Program
One of the biggest advantages of the 12-Step program is its size — no matter where you are, you will have access to a meeting. Many addiction experts and recovering addicts recommend that people new to recovery attend 90 meetings in 90 days. While this might seem like a lot of meetings, it’s an important way to establish a sober support network for yourself, in the form of sober friends and a sober sponsor and begin learning how you can navigate the ups and downs of life without substances. Once the 90 days are over, you can attend less often as long as it doesn’t compromise your recovery.
Stay in Counseling
While you’ve no doubt made significant progress in uncovering the roots of your substance abuse disorder in counseling during your inpatient treatment program, you will need continued counseling to completely resolve these issues. You may choose an outpatient treatment program, where you continue to go to group and individual counseling at night for three to five days a week. Alternatively, you may begin seeing a counselor who specializes in addiction issues one-on-one. The important thing is that you continue with therapy. Many recovering addicts stay in therapy even after the first year of sobriety is up.
Take Care of Yourself
The most important thing you can do to help yourself through the first year of your sobriety is to learn about the symptoms of PAWS and what to do about them if you recognize them in yourself. Even if you do not develop PAWS symptoms, you need to focus on caring for yourself physically and emotionally from now on. Make getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right and making time for the things you enjoy a priority in your life. As a recovering addict, it’s especially important that you rediscover how to take pleasure in normal, wholesome fun again, so make time every day to do things you enjoy. Keep trying out new things, too — you might just discover your next favorite hobby.
The first year of recovery is the hardest. In order to make it through your first 12 months of sobriety, you’re going to need to commit to working hard at your recovery every day. It won’t be easy, but in the end, it will be worth it.