When you have been addicted to any substance, drugs or alcohol, you know that early recovery is going to be a challenge, and the first 90 days will be especially difficult. Fear and anxiety of those early days and weeks of recovery are probably what kept you from quitting in the first place. Regardless of what made you want to quit and get sober, or how you decided to quit, jumping into early recovery is a lot like jumping into cold water – you just have to do it.
Once you have committed to your choice of getting sober, you will face a lot of challenges in the first few months of early sobriety and addiction recovery. How do you face those challenges and continue to hold to the promise to yourself that you will change your life for the better, and not succumb to stressors, urges, withdrawals, and relapse?
We will give you a wealth of ideas to help you stay sober in the early months of drug and alcohol addiction recovery. Some of these ideas work better for one person than the next, and none of these are ideas are the perfect solution, but will help you to create your own path through early sobriety.
Tips for Early Addiction Recovery
The biggest risk factor for your early recovery is YOU. Your thoughts, emotions and even your body will work against you in early recovery. What you need to remember is that all this is only temporary – it really does get easier as time goes by, but you need to hold to your conviction to stay sober, and not let yourself sabotage your recovery efforts.
“I Am Sober and I Feel Like I am Going Crazy”
The withdrawal symptoms of drugs like oxycontin, prescription painkillers, meth, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and other substances will play a lot of tricks on your mind within the first few days of quitting. Anxiety and depression – especially when it is caused by drug and alcohol withdrawal – manifest themselves in some pretty weird ways. You will think that you are having a heart attack, you will feel like you are slowly dying, and you will probably even feel like you are going crazy.
These feelings are all very normal, even though they can be very scary. You just need to get through each day and keep adding days to your count of the days you have stayed sober. The best way to keep yourself from going crazy is to have someone to talk to about the storm of feelings and emotions you have running through you. Drug and alcohol rehab programs usually assign you a counselor to talk you through these feelings and reassure you that you are going to be okay, you just need to stick to sobriety until things start to feel better.
If you are not already in a rehab or addiction treatment program, you need to find a counselor or outpatient treatment program that can give you access to speak to someone during early recovery – this is one of the most important things to keep you from giving up on early recovery.
Rehab programs also engage you with a group of other individuals in early recovery. You will find that the more you talk to someone else about your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings, the easier it is to deal with them. This is one aspect that is usually missing when you try and get sober by yourself, and lack of social interaction, group contact, and having someone to relay your feelings-to presents one of the biggest pitfalls of trying to quit on your own.
Finding Things to do to Stay Sober
Again, the racing thoughts you have when you first quit drugs and alcohol are relentless. In your mind, you will go over the same thoughts again and again, and it will feel like you are on a spinning wheel that never stops. Even though you can’t recognize it, that wheel is slowing every day you stay sober. What you need to find is something that will occupy your mind until the spinning slows enough for you to relax your white-knuckle grip. Some of the most beneficial ways to keep yourself occupied while staying sober can include:
Keep a Sober Journal
Don’t let the word “journal” discount this tactic! Grab a fresh notebook and pen and use it however you need to. Maybe you will just scribble or doodle a drawing for 15 minutes – but, that is another 15 minutes down and more time added to your progress. There is no goal for your journal – other than to eat up time.
Just as speaking to someone else about what you are going through can relieve the symptoms of withdrawal, getting those feelings out of your head and onto paper will bring instant relief. Another common thought process for those recovering from addiction is reliving past events. You can expect that some of those racing thoughts will be about your life, what you have done in the past, what you wish you would have done, and what you can do in the future. Get them out of your head and onto paper.
On paper, you can make for yourself a world of your own. You can make your plans for the future, or plans on bettering yourself, or whatever you want to. Your notebook is your sober journal and your blank slate for creating whatever you want. Remember that the only real goal at this point is to get through the hours of the day, so feel free to devote as many of those hours in the day as you can to your personal time with your journal.
Using Exercise as a Recovery Tool to Stay Sober
It may sound counterintuitive to run when your heart is pounding, you feel anxious, and post-acute withdrawals are making you feel bad. However, as long as you are medically stable (be sure to have medical supervision during acute withdrawal and detox phase), exercise will only do you good.
Think of it this way, is it better to just sit in your driveway with the engine revving high, or is it better to warm the engine and get the systems running with a moderate drive around your neighborhood? Exercises such as walking or jogging will help to get out the nervous energy you have, as well as complement the processes your body is going through. Additionally, many find that healthy exercise helps to naturally reduce insomnia and trouble sleeping that also accompanies early sobriety. It also sets you up to create healthy habits and routines in your day, and every 15 minutes of exercise you do is 15 more minutes you have stayed sober.
Music Can Be Your Best Friend in Recovery
Music is – at its core – a diversion from everyday life. When you are recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, music can not only help to divert your attention from the negative thoughts and feelings you have but listening to it can be a form of mental and emotional exercise. Listening to music has been proven to release serotonin and other behavior-affecting chemicals in your brain.
Read Books and Watch Movies in Recovery from Addiction
Music is not the only mental exercise choice you have, reading and engaging story and watching movies have a great effect on your mental health in early recovery. What you read and watch can also be triggered as well, so be sure to keep the subject matter light and positive – if you can. Remember that staying sober as you are passing the time is the ultimate goal here, and these are two great options for keeping your attention.
Organizing, Cleaning, and Repairing to Stay Sober
Just as having a sober journal gives you a place to organize your thoughts and emotions, and gives you a blank slate to create your own world, you can also start organizing your life in the real world. This is often better-suited for those that have made it past the 30-day sobriety mark when you are ready to take your plans and ideas from your journal and start making the change in your reality but can also be beneficial to some in earlier stages.
Having hope for the future, and seeing the future as an opportunity, for you is one of the most positive views one can have in recovery. It is so important to hold on to that hope and not let it get stale. Too many people become complacent in their recovery, and lose touch with the fact that they have a do-over in their life. Sometimes, in order to keep your passion for sobriety and recovering from your addiction, you will need to “clean house.”
Maybe for you, cleaning your home is the best way to “clean house.” For others, it might be organizing your everyday processes and schedules. For some, repairing things around the house works best at keeping recovery fresh and important. The big thing to remember is that if your environment becomes stale, and you can no longer see continued sobriety working in your environment, change the environment – not your commitment to sobriety.
Help Staying Sober
How do you stay sober? You simply don’t drink alcohol or take drugs. That is the simple answer that is much more difficult to put into practice, but the idea itself is very simple. If you can find positive ways to use your time, keep your mind occupied, and stay committed to your sobriety, what more do you need?
If you can’t figure out how to use your time, occupy your mind, and stay committed to sobriety by yourself, you just need a more guided approach. Rehab programs for drugs and alcohol are great options for how to find the solution in yourself. Sometimes you need help to get yourself up and into the walking position, and rehab is the best solution to help pick you up off the ground and get you moving again. Once moving, it is up to you to keep moving forward.