What Should You Expect During the First Year of Sobriety?

GateHouse Treatment knows how difficult the first year of sobriety can be. Learning how to live with a sober mind after months or years of substance dependency can feel confusing and frustrating. The pressures of life can feel insurmountable, and knowing how to avoid (and overcome), triggers can be the difference between sobriety and relapse.

The real world is a lot different than a sober living facility. Individuals will be free to make their own decisions and spend their time however they feel. That said, the first year of sobriety should be treated as the extremely important time it represents. Relapse can someone struggling with addiction back down the road of substance use. If they aren’t careful, they may find themselves back in rehab.

GateHouse provides treatment for individuals struggling with sobriety. Our intensive outpatient programs provide elite care for individuals transitioning back into society. We also provide alumni programs that will help individuals in recovery live a sober, healthy lifestyle.

Sobriety can seem intimidating at first, but it is far from impossible. By making a few lifestyle changes, individuals can resist the temptation of drugs and live happy, healthy life. Here are a few things to expect during the first year of sobriety.

First Year of Sobriety = Drug Cravings

The first year of sobriety will present many challenges. Long-term withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings can be extremely powerful. The mind continues to store the memories of drug effects even after removing the physical dependence. Because of this, many recovering addicts find themselves craving drugs long after they have completed detox.

Overcoming drug cravings can feel difficult. For many drug users, substance use is an escape from negative feelings such as anxiety and depression. However, a core aspect of sober living is developing healthy coping mechanisms for life’s stresses. Unless an addict finds new ways to deal with their negative emotions, they will be at risk of relapse and newfound drug addiction.

Medication-assisted treatment is viable for many struggling with long-term withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. This form of treatment uses FDA-approved medications that help individuals reduce their cravings for substances such as opioids and alcohol. When used in conjunction with psychotherapy, this can be an extremely effective way to curb an individual’s desire to relapse.

First Year of Sobriety = New Relationships

After leaving a sober living facility, it’s normal to make new friendships. Many recovering addicts come from friend groups built on substance abuse. A common aspect of recovery is ending toxic relationships and getting away from people who do not support a sober lifestyle. Spending extended time with drug users who promote substance abuse is not conducive to a sober lifestyle and can easily lead to relapse.

Sober relationships can be a great asset to recovery. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who prioritize sober living can help an addict stay on the right path and avoid relapse. It can also help introduce new hobbies and activities that help the addict realize they can live a full life without using drugs. Sober relationships will also help with navigating sobriety’s emotional ups and downs. For some, the cravings and memories never go away, but having friends who are experiencing similar struggles can help the addict feel less alone.

Many addiction treatment centers offer alumni programs. These programs provide structure for center graduates and allow them to connect with others who have completed treatment but still need a healthy social circle. Alumni programs provide participants with group therapy sessions where they can discuss the challenges they are facing post-rehab and what they can do to overcome these obstacles. It also provides addicts with a way to experience sober fun. Many alumni programs have social outings and recreational activities that provide addicts with a healthy opportunity to learn to have fun without being high.

First Year of Sobriety = Daily Schedules

Creating a daily schedule during your first days away from rehab is essential. Many people experiencing lasting sobriety have used a daily schedule to propel them forward and avoid the pitfalls that lead to relapse. By having a daily schedule, recovering addicts can give purpose to their time and avoid the bad decision-making that comes with boredom (due to excessive free time) or stress (due to responsibilities and a lack of daily organization).

A daily schedule may seem simple, but it can be a powerful tool for a recovering addict who wants to commit fully to a sober lifestyle. It can also help individuals experience success at their workplace or school. Experts suggest using a daily schedule to promote healthy habits, such as waking up (and going to sleep) at a reasonable time, daily exercise, self-improvement initiatives, and other healthy habits that promote sobriety.

Self-accountability is key. Set reasonable goals and commit to following the schedule every day. Addicts struggling to develop a schedule may need to consult a therapist or life coach to find a schedule that fits them.

First Year of Sobriety = Emotional Struggles

The first year of sobriety will be an emotional time for many. As an individual begins to seek employment or academic re-enrollment, the memories of drug abuse may continue to follow them.

Overconfidence is a common problem with which many recovering addicts struggle. Many addicts feel they can have close relationships with peers who drink or use drugs. While every situation is different, this is usually a bad decision. Going to a bar to hang out can quickly lead to relapse and daily drug or alcohol consumption.

Depression is another common struggle for those recovering from substance dependence. It is common for the addict to feel sad and alone after leaving a sober living facility. Because drug addiction ruins relationships, many addicts are shunned by their family and friends, even after completing rehab. While these relationships are not always beyond repair, if a loved one has completely cut ties, it can cause someone in recovery to spiral into depression. Feelings of worthlessness can lead to bad decision-making, so it is important to address depression as soon as possible.

Psychotherapy can greatly reduce feelings of depression. Talking to a trusted professional and openly discussing emotional struggles can be a great way to vent and learn more about coping with life’s ups and downs. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a great form of treatment for individuals who intensely experience emotions. DBT helps participants practice mindfulness, acceptance, and distress tolerance, promoting a sober lifestyle while providing healthy coping tools.

GateHouse Treatment | Treatment for Drug Addiction

The first year of sobriety will undoubtedly be a journey. It may not always be easy, but the payoff is overwhelmingly worth it. By continuing the work that started in rehab, individuals can find ways to survive in the real world and begin building a life free from substance abuse.

Rehabilitation may seem difficult, the challenges should not be scary or overwhelming. At GateHouse Treatment, we offer a variety of treatment programs that help addicts overcome their drug use and find purpose. For more information on our services, contact us today at (855) 448-3707 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.

Jim Fredrick

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