It’s not unusual for individuals to face some early struggles soon after leaving an addiction treatment program. Going from a structured treatment environment back to regular daily life can be a difficult transition.
Even though good treatment programs will equip you with coping methods and strategies to help you deal with and overcome these struggles, it isn’t always easy to apply what you’ve learned in stressful, real-life situations. Therefore, knowing beforehand the challenges you might face can help you to better prepare yourself for maintaining sobriety during early recovery.
Why is early recovery so challenging?
Let’s make it known that not everyone has a difficult early recovery period. Some individuals find it to be a very peaceful, refreshing time in their life. Others, however, have a much more difficult time facing the realities of the world upon leaving the treatment facility.
During recovery, you’re kept to a hard and fast schedule, you’re surrounded by others who are working toward the same goal and you’re in a sober environment, completely free from any triggers, temptations or distractions from the recovery process. For someone who has not come from such a safe, structured environment, it can be incredibly peaceful and freeing.
When you return home, however, much of that environment is lost. Triggers are more commonly present; it becomes your responsibility to establish and maintain a routine; any negative influences in your life may come back around and peer pressure may become a factor. In this delicate time of transition, it becomes even more necessary to remember why you started this process and to surround yourself with a healthy support group that motivates your sobriety.
Common struggles in recovery
The more you know what struggles you’re likely to face in early recovery, the less likely they are to catch you off guard and knock you off track.
Being around others who use
Being around friends, family or other individuals who use drugs or alcohol, even casually, can be stressful and tempting for an individual in early recovery. Treatment programs often encourage their clients to avoid the familiar people, places and things that were around them when they were actively using.
Although finding new friends and new places to hang out can be difficult, it can also make early recovery a lot less anxiety-inducing. Family members can provide support by not using around their loved one in recovery and helping make the home environment a dry one.
Experiencing strong emotions
If you aren’t used to experiencing sustained periods of sobriety, it may initially be difficult to deal with the strong emotions that often accompany a sober mind. Especially if you’re switching from a life of addiction to one of sobriety, these emotions can feel particularly intense in the early stages because long-term drug and alcohol use can damage one’s emotional balance (although this can be repaired over time).
Ongoing counseling, support from loved ones and a healthy outlet for stress relief can help you not only handle these emotions but give you the stamina to continue coping with — and learning from — emotions as they come.
Because of the fixed schedule of a treatment center, you don’t have much free time on your hands. When you leave treatment, however, you’re likely to find yourself with a lot of extra time, partially because you’re not using any of your time on addictive behaviors.
However, this amount of free time can leave you feeling bored, and unsure of what to do with yourself. Boredom is a risk for relapse, and when it feels like nothing is happening, it can be tempting to fill that space with things that aren’t necessarily good. In order to prevent this from happening, find hobbies like painting, journaling, gardening or cooking to give you a healthy task when you’re feeling bored.
Your body is adjusting to the lack of feel-good chemicals that substances used to provide and is trying to heal itself to provide these for you naturally. During this process, it wouldn’t be surprising if you were feeling increased levels of sensitivity to stress, particularly in the form of irritability and even anger.
Be gentle with yourself during this time, and realize that these emotions are not inherently bad — it’s the way you handle them that’s important. Avoid high-stress situations during this time, if possible, and create a stress-relief plan for yourself if you begin to feel more irritated than normal as a result of stress.
The process of recovery is hard, we’re not going to sugarcoat it. For this reason, it’s important to equip yourself with the right tools to provide you with support not only during the early stages but throughout your entire sobriety journey.
To get started today, reach out to Silvermist Recovery to learn more about our treatment programs, including outpatient treatment opportunities for anyone needing support during their post-treatment phase.