first year of sobriety

What to Expect in the First Year of Sobriety

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Recovery is filled with new beginnings and new challenges. But the good new is that many other people have walked the path you’re on. Their knowledge and insights can help you find your way. When you know what to expect in the first year of sobriety, you will be better prepared to make meaningful progress.

What to Expect in the First Year of Sobriety

Your first year of sobriety will be a lot like your previous years. There will be good days and bad ones. There will be successes and setbacks. But one of the things that makes this year different is that you will be facing your challenges without resorting to alcohol or other drugs.

Another important difference is that you are now part of a vibrant global community of people who are working together to remain in recovery. You are stronger than you realize, and you have more support than you know.

How to Increase Your Chances of a Successful Recovery

Here are a few simple tips that can increase your chances of having a successful first year in recovery.

  • Make a schedule. You used to spend a lot of time finding, using, and recovering from drugs. Now you need to dedicate those hours to something productive. Empty spaces in your schedule can quickly fill up with problematic thoughts and troublesome temptations. When you organize your days and schedule your activities, you can make sure you’re putting your time and efforts to the best use.
  • Eat well and exercise. Never forget the importance of the mind-body connection. Proper nutrition can help you stay alert and focused. Appropriate exercise can be an excellent way to manage stress and protect your health. Finding fun ways to stay fit can also fill some of those empty hours we talked about in the previous bullet point. 
  • Stay connected. If you’ve been attending 12-Step meetings or other support groups, don’t stop just because you’ve had some initial successes. Isolation can be dangerous, especially during the early months of your recovery. Make a point of keeping in touch with the members of your personal support network. Calls, emails, texts, and occasional meet-ups for coffee and conversation can be vital parts of your recovery plan.
  • Be honest. The desire to hide from your problems can quickly push you back into active substance abuse. During treatment, you learned healthy ways of responding to challenges. The first step is to acknowledge that a challenge exists. This means you need to be honest with yourself. If you’re having a hard day, take an honest look at what, exactly is causing you to feel this way. Making a habit of honesty can yield a lifetime of benefits.
  • Get help. This is very similar to “stay connected” – but this point is so important that it’s worth reiterating. Don’t wait for a crisis to reach out for assistance. Support groups and counseling sessions can help you maintain and build on the progress you’ve been making. By now, you should know that there is no shame in reaching out for help. Refusing to ask can allow minor difficulties to become major problems. 

Mistakes to Avoid in Your First Year of Sobriety

Want to know what to expect in the first year of sobriety? Expect to make mistakes. You weren’t perfect before you got sober, and you’re not perfect now. And that is 100% OK. What’s most important is being aware of the mistakes that can threaten your recovery, so you can prepare for how to respond if and when you do slip up. Here are some common errors people make in early recovery:

  • Becoming overconfident. Rehab was hard, but you made it! Or maybe rehab was easier than you expected. Either way, you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s important to recognize what you’ve accomplished. But you can’t let confidence lead to complacency. The challenges you overcame last week or last month are gone. But new obstacles will inevitably appear. Stay focused and stay humble.
  • Comparing yourself to other people. This can work both ways. Beating yourself up because you don’t seem to be making as much progress as another member of your recovery support group can be detrimental to your well-being. So, too, can thinking you’re better or stronger than someone else just because they seem to be struggling much more than you are. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday. 
  • Starting a romantic relationship. This can be a controversial topic, but it is extremely important to consider your readiness for emotional (and physical) intimacy. No matter how strong you feel after completing rehab, your body and mind are still in the early stages of recovering from the damage of active addiction. During your first year, you need to be selfish with your time and focused on your health. It’s hard to do this while also trying to fully commit to a romantic relationship. 
  • Expecting your friends and family to change. You’ve done a ton of work. You’ve made a lot of sacrifices. You’ve taken an honest, unflinching look at who you were, who you are, and who you want to become. And you’ve made more changes than you ever thought possible. Your friends have done none of these things. And that’s OK. The only person who is responsible for your sobriety is you. Expecting others to change just because you have is unhealthy and unrealistic.
  • Trying to do it all. Now that you’re finally sober, there are so many things you want to do. Go back to school. Get a better job. Find a different place to live. Run a marathon. Start painting. And so much more! It’s great to have goals, and it’s laudable to want to improve yourself. But don’t try to cram a lifetime of living into the next 12 months. You’re still healing, growing, and changing. Give yourself some breathing room. Focus on taking small steps. Before you know it, you’ll have gotten farther than you realized.

Sober Living Success Rates

Sober living success rates can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the following:

  • How long did the individual remain in treatment?
  • Does the person have a co-occurring mental health concern?
  • What types of aftercare services or discharge planning did the rehab center provide?
  • Has the individual been actively engaged with 12-Step groups or other support options?
  • Does the person have a sponsor?
  • What is the quality of the individual’s personal support network?

It’s also important to remember that success can mean different things to different people. Here are a few concepts to consider when assessing your own success:

  • Have you remained sober?
  • If you had a relapse, did you deal with it in a healthy manner?
  • Are you willing to get help when you need it?
  • Do you take responsibility for your actions?
  • Has the quality of your relationships improved?
  • Have you done a better job of managing your stress?
  • Are you more fully present in the lives of your loved ones?
  • Are you becoming the person you want to be?

When you are in your first year of recovery (or any other year, for that matter), the only success rate that should matter is your own.

Get Addiction Help in Southern California

Ocean Hills Recovery offers a continuum of personalized services for adults whose lives have been disrupted by addictions to alcohol and other drugs. Treatment options at our center in Southern California include detox, residential care, and a partial hospitalization program. With our help, you can end your substance abuse and start living a healthier and more hopeful life. Contact us today to learn more.

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