Howdy! Your local substance abuse counselor here to help you add to your toolbox with some practical skills to help you get through the minefield of early recovery. Don’t get me wrong – recovery is absolutely a gift and a blessing, but those first few months can be challenging. Learning how to navigate through conflict, cravings, triggers, and (what feels like) endless change can feel overwhelming. But with the right tools, it can all feel more manageable.
Make some friends! Engaging in recovery efforts such as outpatient programming or recovery support meetings can be a great place to start. One of the struggles of getting newly clean and sober can be feeling lonely. There is a good chance the majority of the people we have been spending the bulk of our time with are associated with our active use. By attending meetings, we are placed in an optimal position to meet likeminded people with similar goals who are seeking to better themselves by actively participating in their own recovery.
Isolation can be the default setting for many addicts when faced with distress. It has been said before that an addict alone with their thoughts is behind enemy lines. It can be easy to isolate and fall prey to negative thinking, rumination, and self-pity. Remember those friends we just talked about making? Now is a good time to use them! Often times other people have no idea if we are struggling if we don’t take the time to reach out and let them know what is going on in our lives. Most people genuinely want to help. Give them the opportunity to feel good and as a byproduct you might end up feeling good too!
Work a Program
There a multitude of community-based programs out there designed to fit the needs of each individual. AA and NA are the tried-and-true programs that work for the masses, but there are plenty of folks out there who might not necessarily jive with twelve-step. That’s okay! Looking for something more specific to Christianity? Try Celebrate Recovery. Or perhaps something a little more based in science? SMART Recovery might be right for you. If the structure of a process group is something you prefer, you might enjoy LifeRing. If a Buddhist path is what you are seeking, consider giving Refuge Recovery a try. There are many paths that lead to recovery, find the one that works for you!
Are you finding yourself missing all those feel-good chemicals that used to flood your brain when you were using? What if I told you there is a natural alternative? Regular exercise can boost your mood and general sense of well-being by releasing important neurotransmitters like endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These chemicals are usually pretty depleted in early recovery and play a significant role in mood regulation.
Creating a gratitude list sounds like a silly suggestion, doesn’t it? As though writing down a few things you’re grateful for will magically make your problems go away. Here’s the spoiler alert: it definitely won’t make your problems disappear. But there is a strong chance it will have a significant impact on your perspective and the way you view the world. Taking the time to list out the positive things in your life puts problems into perspective and highlights all the beauty in life. Usually through making a gratitude list, we are able to see that we’ve actually never had it so good.
The amount of tools available to help you in early recovery are innumerable. These are just a few practical examples that can help you make it through, one day at a time.
Kate Jehu CADC-I