How to Survive Early Sobriety

woman holding hand up in 'stop' sign and the other covering a wine glass

Alcohol and drug addiction takes a toll on interpersonal relationships, family life, marriage or domestic partnerships, friendships and work. Although getting professional help is an essential first step, interpersonal challenges don’t disappear after the person in recovery returns home or to work.

In many instances, codependent individuals become so accustomed to picking up the pieces that newfound sobriety can throw a wrench in the dynamic, whether it’s a life partner, best friend or colleague. All of this can feel like an emotional rollercoaster, especially to the recovering addict.

How long these disruptive changes impact a relationship depends to a large extent on how committed the person in recovery is to repairing and redefining it. Others also play a role, although to a lesser degree.

Challenges for the Person in Early Recovery

The length of a person’s addiction can impact how they deal with early sobriety. A person that abused alcohol or drugs for 20 years may find it more of a shock to be suddenly deprived than a person who drank for a year or two.

Giving up drugs or alcohol means giving up a life defined by substance use. In the absence of familiar structure, routine and consistency, early recovery can be more difficult than you imagined. Addiction is a chronic disease that impacts brain chemistry, so it can take a while for brain chemicals to normalize, Bouts of depression are a fairly common part of the recovery process. The established pathways between pleasure and addiction never go away, so it’s important to always be vigilant and never assume you can handle drinking or drugs in moderation.

Tips for Maintaining Early Sobriety

Often the best tips on surviving and maintaining early sobriety come from a person who experienced it firsthand. The following tips are courtesy of Sober Julie, a recovering alcoholic.

  • Stick to a regular daily schedule
  • Attend 12-step meetings
  • Find a sponsor
  • Continue psychotherapy
  • Create a safe environment free of triggers
  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Get adequate sleep
  • List your goals
  • Avoid major life changes
  • Be patient with yourself and others
  • Never take abstinence for granted

Here are six tips from HuffPost contributor Katherine Davis:

Make sobriety your number one priority.

This requires assessing situations, places you’re going and people you are hanging out with to avoid potential triggers.

Accept things you cannot change.

Although you cannot change the past, you can learn from past mistakes. It’s important to realize you have no control over other people, but you can control how you react to them and the world around you. You can choose to act positively instead of negatively, even when faced with challenges or frustrations.

Eliminate or limit negative influences.

If certain people, places or things bring you down, you need to change this. You have the power to surround yourself with the right people, places and situations and avoid anything you find negative or toxic.

Say no without feeling guilty.

In the past, you may have felt guilty for turning someone down. For your own well-being and ongoing sobriety, feel free to do this without guilt. And when someone says no to you, accept this and respect their decision.

Let go of resentment.

Focusing on people and situations from the past is part of the recovery process, but it can cause resentment and anger. Find ways to release this by sharing your feelings with people you trust and make amends with those you feel you slighted.

Be honest with people close to you.

Avoid getting lost in your own feelings and emotions by opening up to people you love and trust. Self-acceptance and acceptance from those closest to you can help prevent negative emotions that can trigger relapse.

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