According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, addiction is a powerful disease that affects over 20 million people each year in the U.S. alone.1 With over 93,000 overdose deaths reported in 2020, understanding recovery options and treatment services are more critical than ever before to people in all stages of recovery and non-addicts helping loved ones.2
While many treatment programs are available to those suffering from addiction, people don’t always consider some of the struggles that await. Too often, addicts equate recovery with immediate abstinence and “wellness.” This type of thinking can lead to relapse.
Instead, it’s essential to reflect on the many stages of recovery. Knowing what to expect in the early stages of recovery through the last can make the process more manageable. It also increases the chances of success after treatment.
Some of the Challenges Faced in the First Stages of Recovery
Addiction doesn’t just affect the physical body. It’s a disease that can alter the way the brain perceives what it needs to feel satisfied. This can make it challenging to deal with cravings in the early stages of recovery.
Handling Unexpected and Powerful Cravings
Cravings that feel overwhelming are usual within the early stages of recovery. During a person’s active addiction, they feed these cravings quickly. In early recovery, a recovering addict must take a multi-faceted approach to keep cravings at bay.
No, you may not be able to eliminate these cravings, but you will be learning various techniques and strategies to cope. For some, it’s about learning to avoid craving triggers. For others, it’s faithfully practicing behavioral strategies to regulate emotions linked to cravings. Either way, it typically takes more than just willpower to manage.
Managing Strong Emotions
The early stages of addiction recovery are bound to come with some strong and potentially difficult emotions. Sometimes, these emotions are linked to physical distress specific to withdrawal symptoms. Other times, such feelings reveal mental health issues that the individual once covered up with drugs or alcohol.
Common emotions experienced during this phase of recovery include:
Whether a person is dealing with one or more of these emotions at a time, it will be essential to have a clear and present support team in place to help. Everyone from therapists to family and friends can make a huge impact when life feels overwhelmed with emotions.
Recognizing the Potential for Relationship Issues
Make no mistake that recovery from addiction is a good and positive step forward. However, many who enter recovery don’t always take time to consider that some relationships they’ve established may suffer as a result.
For some in recovery, the early phases of the process reveal a collection of broken relationships they didn’t even realize addiction had caused along the way. Addiction quickly diminishes trust among friends and family as an addict makes finding a fix a priority and often uses deception to avoid being caught.
During active addiction, it’s likely that the addict formed relationships based solely on substance use. When a person decides to enter treatment, those who have supported that person’s dependency or addiction for so long may see it as an act of betrayal.
It’s essential to recognize that throughout the recovery process, some relationships will need to be rebuilt. Others are going to be lost. It’s a time of transition on many levels.
Seeing Beyond the Symptoms of the Initial Stages of Recovery
There’s nothing easy about early-stage recovery, but the effort is worthwhile. Combating addiction begins with facing hard facts about the disease head-on. From here, those in recovery will only grow stronger, especially with suitable support systems in place.
Above all, it’s a process. Those in recovery are making a long-term commitment to themselves and their health. In the end, getting back a life you love is worth every effort.
Reach Out to Ocean Hills Recovery Today
When you’re ready to start your recovery from addiction, our team at Ocean Hills Recovery is here for you. Our compassionate and professional staff will work with you to create a unique plan for your success and long-term sobriety. We’ll help you build the skills and support systems to improve your chances of beating substance problems for good.
Reach out today to learn more about our many treatment programs and services.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.