Early recovery is a crucial stage for any recovering addict. There is no set definition for what constitutes ‘early recovery’ but it is generally taken to be at least the first 90 days and could extend up to the first year or so of recovery. People who maintain their recovery beyond that initial 90 days generally have a much better chance of staying clean and/or sober in the long term.
There are many challenges that will need to be overcome during this period. The exact nature of these challenges can vary depending on your own issues and circumstances, but some common ones include dealing with cravings, triggers, depression, mood fluctuations and boredom.
There is no one route that every recovering addict can or should take. Everyone’s path is different but here are 7 things that could help in the early days of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol.
If you are following a 12-step programme with Alcoholics Anonymous or another recovery fellowship, you will probably be aware of the concept of ’90 meetings in 90 days’. It’s important to take things one day at a time and attending a daily 12-step meeting can really help with that, as well as providing essential support from people who are non-judgemental and may have been through or still be going through a similar experience.
Not everyone who is recovering from drug, alcohol or behavioural addiction does so through a 12-step fellowship or programme, but support groups of other kinds can still be a great source of support and strength for anyone who needs them. As well as the many organisations, groups and fellowships available there are plenty of online communities and resources that can provide support and information.
Take some physical exercise
Addiction usually takes a heavy physical toll. Exercise can help you to regain your physical fitness, but it’s important to take things slowly. It’s also advisable to consult a doctor before starting any physical regimen if you have underlying health conditions. As well as improve your fitness levels, taking appropriate exercise can improve mental health and help fight depression, mood swings and cravings. You might even discover a passion for martial arts, running or some other sport or activity.
Healthy eating is another important way to recover your physical health. Addicts frequently neglect their body and can end up malnourished, obese or lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. Eating healthily and adopting a regular sleep pattern can also help with your general sense of well-being.
Don’t forget about your spiritual health
It’s important to look after your body but spiritual health can be just as important. Many people find that reconnecting to a ‘higher power’ or exploring their spirituality for the first time can bring them great strength and help with their recovery.
Spirituality does not have to be religious, although some people do find their own religion to be something from which they can draw comfort and power. Others might find inspiration through meditation, mindfulness, yoga or the natural world around them. Prayers, mantras and affirmations can provide a way to have a conversation with your personal higher power.
Do something new or fun
Getting through the different stages of recovery can be a hard slog. There will almost certainly be times when you are miserable. Depression and mood swings can be a natural part of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, but you should also try to make time to do things you enjoy.
One reason is because boredom can lead to you considering old, destructive behaviours and circles of people who still indulge in substance abuse. Doing something new or fun can also be good for your mental health, be used for distraction when cravings strike and simply improve your overall quality of life.
Taking a class, finding a hobby, taking up a sport or just going out for a meal or to the cinema can all be useful pursuits. For some recovering addicts, finding an outlet for their creativity – at whatever level of skill – can also be a great way to channel energy and, again, you might find a new passion.
Reading or taking a class can be a fun activity as outlined above. Learning about addiction itself can also be very useful and there is no reason for this to stop once you leave a treatment program. New theories, studies, medical advancements and addiction treatment techniques surface all the time and reading up on them can help you to ‘know the enemy’.
Self-awareness can also help you to recognise triggers and problematic aspects of your own personality and behaviour. This can be explored through ongoing therapy sessions, which are often a part of the recovery programme at addiction treatment centers.
Set and complete goals
It’s important to have a structure to your day and to have something to work towards. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often have chaotic lifestyles and making a daily, weekly or more long-term schedule can help keep you on track.
Setting and achieving goals can be a useful part of your routine. These do not have to be hugely ambitious and it can be better to make them easily achievable at first. This could be as simple as turning up for work on time every day for a week or joining a gym.
Give something back
Most addicts do harm to others when they are in the midst of their addiction, whether this is to family and friends, complete strangers or society as a whole. The idea of making amends or doing service is a key part of most 12-step programmes but it can also be very rewarding for anyone, including recovering addicts following other paths.
There are plenty of opportunities to help others as part of a recovery organisation but you could also consider joining a community groups, doing voluntary work or simply helping out friends and family in whatever ways you can.