What to Expect in Your First Year of Sobriety

You made it through detox and then an intensive course of addiction treatment or a stay at rehab, and here you are: sober. What does the next year hold for you? You may be wondering how you’ll get through tomorrow, let alone the next year. If you can get to one year sober, you will have achieved a major milestone. While everyone is different and has different experiences, there are some commonalities for everyone in the first year and advice that applies to all early recovering addicts.

Managing Sobriety

You started your journey to sobriety when you first made that decision to get help. Your next step was to detox and then to go through a treatment program. Finishing the program and starting your first year of sobriety is like the first step of a new journey. You are beginning your new life as someone who is sober, and it will be challenging. Your main goal is to maintain your sobriety.

While you may want to work on other aspects of your life, staying sober should be your primary focus. This is because relapse is common in the first year and if you don’t really focus on staying sober, you can easily slip into that outcome. Addiction is a chronic disease, and like others, relapse is possible and likely. Around 60 percent of addicts relapse. One of the most important ways you can avoid slipping is to avoid being around drugs and alcohol. Avoid difficult situations as much as possible.

Maintaining Treatment

The best way to avoid relapse and to complete a year completely sober is to continue with treatment. This doesn’t mean that it has to be as intense or frequent as what you experienced in rehab, but regular treatment in some form provides protection against relapse in your first year. Use whatever type of treatment works best for you. Go to regular therapy sessions, attend support group meetings or work with a sponsor. As with chronic physical illnesses, addicts most often relapse when they let treatment slide.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome 

Some recovering addicts experience something called post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, during the first year. It is more common with alcoholics and is a group of symptoms similar to withdrawal that persist long after detox. You might feel anxious or fatigued. You may have difficulty sleeping or struggle to think clearly and remember things. Your emotions will go haywire and you might have trouble coping with stress. The first year of recovery is difficult but shouldn’t be this hard. If you just don’t feel right, see your doctor or your therapist to talk about the possibility that you have PAWS.

Your Mental and Physical Health 

While your main focus during the first year of recovery should be staying sober, this will be easier to do if you take care of your health both mentally and physically. It is not uncommon to feel depressed during this time. If you do, talk to your therapist or with a close friend. If it persists, you may need some more professional treatment to feel better.

Your physical health is important, too. When you feel good you will be less tempted to relapse. Practice good health habits, including a regular sleep schedule, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and stress management practices like meditation. Your first year of recovery will not be easy, but if you focus on your sobriety and your overall well-being while continuing with some kind of treatment, you will reach your milestone.

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