Early recovery is a very challenging time.  Dealing with life on life’s terms without drink and drugs can bring a whole host of emotions that before you would have numbed with the drug of your choice.  It often takes a lot of pain and negative consequences to bring someone into recovery; their addiction has to have become painful enough that they feel they could no longer carry on living that way. This means that coming into recovery, these consequences will have to be faced and dealt with. Early recovery can be a real test of your inner resources and there are some common mistakes that you can try and avoid in order to protect your newly found recovery.

1. Over committing

Now that you are finally free from the physical addiction to alcohol or drugs, mentally and physically your health will improve in leaps and bounds.  This means that you will be feeling much much better, you may feel even, that you can deal with anything and take on anything.  This is something that often proves to be a mistake.  Early recovery is a time for convalescing and adjustment.  We think it is wise to hold back from taking on too many commitments in the early days.  This can lead to feeling overloaded and under pressure, leaving the individual with an overwhelming desire to escape. Take things slowly at first, recovery is not a race.  Give yourself time to adjust.  In time you will learn just how much you are able to cope with.

2. Hanging out with old drinking and using friends

You may be keen to show your old friends that you can still hang out with them, without the need for a drink or a drug.  We think it is wise to avoid this, especially in the early days.  If your friends are heavy drinkers or users, it is unlikely that they will change their ways just to accommodate your new found sobriety.  Be aware that being around drink and/or drugs in the early days can make you feel very vulnerable.  You may start to feel left out as your friends will be on a different level to you under the influence.  This can lead to you feeling tempted to joining in.

3. Thinking you are cured

No one is ever really cured from alcoholism or addiction. Having a sober and clean period does not mean you will be able to drink and or use safely after a time.  It is important to remember that your sobriety is contingent on you remaining abstinent and the things that you do on a daily basis to help achieve this. Those who do relapse, inevitably return to where they left off and often worse.  When you become addicted to alcohol or a drug, you have crossed a line; there is something in you that makes you predisposed to the likelihood of this happening again. Addiction is a progressive illness of the mind and body and over any given period of time the sufferer will always get worse, never better.

4.  Having high expectations 

You may think that all that was wrong with your life was the fact that you used and or drank too much.  For sure, this would have been a big contributor, bur being addicted to drugs or alcohol is all consuming and makes the sufferer very selfish in terms of thinking of others needs and dealing with any problems. Now that you re sober and clean you will need to deal with life on life’s tems.  Life will carry on as always, there will be no exceptions for your newly sober status. We think it a good idea to keep your expectations of sober life low.  This avoids resentment and disappointment, which in turn can lead to relapse. Sobriety is and can be everything you have ever dreamed of, but it takes hard work and commitment.  It does not happen over night, nor is it automatic, so be patient and let go of you expectations.

5.  Embarking on a new relationship

Now that you are sober and clean, you may look to fill the gap in your life that drugs or alcohol filled. Embarking on a new relationship in early sobriety is often a mistake.  Relationships can bring many strong emotions, not all positive, that can be very hard to deal with if your own recovery is not yet properly and solidly established. Early recovery is a time for getting to know yourself and making the relevant changes to ensure that you don’t go back to drinking and/or using. A new relationship can be very distracting in terms of where you place your time and effort.  If you take the time to become comfortable within yourself first, you will have plenty of time for a relationship once you are on solid ground.

6.  Expecting loved ones to change

It may be that your partner or a close family member is a heavy drinker or user. You may have expectations that now you are sober and clean that they too will take steps to change their ways and come into recovery.  Remember that no one could have influenced you coming into recovery until you were well and truly ready.  If you are in a relationship with someone that is still drinking and/or using heavily, you will need to decide wether it is safe for your recovery to continue in the relationship, or if for the time being it is best to part ways until they arrive at a point where they are willing to change. There are no easy answers when you love someone who is suffering from an addiction, but it is important to keep your sobriety safe first and foremost, otherwise you will not be of any help to those that you love and care for.

7   Thinking you can do it alone

Addiction relies on the individual being self sufficient. Lying, cheating and sometimes even stealing to fund an addiction takes a lot of self reliance.  In addiction you are very much isolated from others and reality.  This can lead you to thinking that you dont need help and that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  Paradoxically , we think it takes great courage and strength to ask for help, it means setting aside your pride and allowing someone else in.  This is not always easy, especially when you have been used to coping under your own esteem.  But remember where doing it your way got you.  Others input and help is valuable and necessary to prevent from returning to old self sufficient ways. It is suggested to build new relationships and a network of support with others in recovery and professionals that can help. Take guidance from those who have gone before you.  Their experience can really help strengthen your recovery.  As long as you remain teachable and open to learning from others, you will continue to grow in your recovery

8.  Feeling ashamed to be struggling

It takes great courage and a leap of faith to ask for help.  It also takes humility to admit when you are struggling.  False pride and self reliance can be dangerous in recovery.  It can mean unnecessary suffering and relapse.  Be mindful that it is normal not to automatically know how to deal with every problem that comes along. That it is normal to have off days where your not feeling so great.  Do not feel ashamed if you are finding sobriety tough going, everyone has their struggles.  It is important to reach out and ask for help when you are struggling, after all nothing changes if nothing changes. Others will be only to pleased to answer a genuine request for help, but unless you speak to others of how you are feeling, they will remain clueless and you will remain feeling isolated and alone.

9   Expecting others to forgive and trust

You may feel guilt, shame and remorse at how you have acted in the past whilst in your addiction.  Whilst it is important to try and put matters straight as best you can, reliving the past will only serve to make you miserable and bring back those painful emotions. Gaining others trust takes time and work.  Others will be more interested in seeing you change for the better than they will an apology.  In addiction, there will have been many promises made, and broken, and many apologies.  Recovery is all about action, through your actions you can change and others will see that. Loved ones will often forgive, but forgetting the pain of the past takes time to heal.  They will be afraid of you relapsing and returning to your old ways.  Be patient with them for they have suffered a great deal too. Time and change will regain their trust and eventually pale the memories of the past.

10.  Thinking the hard work is done

Now that you have manged to stop drinking and/or using, you may be thinking that the hard work is behind you.  This is a common mistake.  Complacency creeps in as you start to feel more comfortable in your sobriety. Stopping the alcohol or drugs is the easy part.  The hard part is staying stopped. This mens you will need to remain vigilant. If you are receiving help or following a program of recovery, you will need to continue with this. Sobriety is all about maintaining what you have and continuing to grow in your personal development. If attending 12 Step fellowship meetings has been apart of you getting sober, you will need to continue with this in order to stay well. Becoming complacent can led to relapse, it is important to continue working on yourself and your sobriety in order to keep it.

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