Is recovery a lifelong process?

Yes, recovery from addiction is a lifelong process. What can you do in early recovery to start on the road? Practical suggestions here.

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Recovery is a lifelong process, a fight for your life, the rest of your life. But sobriety can be difficult, especially in early recovery. What commonly happens to people in early recovery? And how can you frame one-day-at-a-time in the context of a lifetime?  We explore here. Then, we invite your questions or comments about what addiction recovery is at the end.

Why is early recovery difficult?

At the beginning of the journey in recovery from addiction, it can be difficult to stay sober without changing associations once a person leaves a drug or alcohol rehab center. The struggle is just beginning. Leaving a sheltered environment, newly sober people enter into a world filled with the same pitfalls and struggles they left behind. In this life-long process of recovery, emotional imbalance is a problem. Frustration with bills, marriage, school, life (in general) can send years of recovery spiraling into the abyss.

Furthermore, if the environment is convenient for drug or alcohol use, the recovery process is even more difficult.  The street corners are the same. The job is the same. Those around you are aware of an anticipate your old habits. People wanting quick money will be more than anxious to offer a freebie and unless you have changed the way you think, locking in a strong resolve to save your life and protect those you love, your recovery is over the moment you leave the shelter of rehab.

Active alcoholics or addicts only care about the drug when into the drugs. Thinking about friends you can no longer see who are still in that world is sad, they are missed, but the lure of the drug prevents your seeing them. Sadly, the old adage is true; Misery loves company. If these people are a part of your inner circle, recovery will soon be lost. There is no love for anyone or anything, only the drug. So, what can you do to avoid the pitfalls of relapse? And how can you be happy and healthy in addiction recovery?

Making a relapse prevention plan

Many addicts find it difficult to let go of the past but this is the only way to move away from addiction. The one, perhaps most important, suggestion that experts make to people in early recovery is to make a relapse prevention plan. This is a formalized worksheet where you list challenges such as triggers, cravings, and emotional stresses and their solutions. A plan for relapse prevention helps you anticipate problems and to solve them in advance.

Life is filled with stress, and this stress and the way it is managed will become a factor in drug or alcohol recovery. A drug addict has family problems like most people. Emotional upheavals push addicts into thinking, seeking escape. Feeling overpowered can create an urge for alcohol or drugs. Only the addict is able to prevent a relapse with a working stress management plan in place.

Additionally, making a plan for filling empty time is essential. Finding positive, productive hobbies and people to associate with helps recuperation. Stay away from people uninterested in your success, like alcoholism; you require people who will not bring whiskey to the party. This is why a relapse prevention plan is a CRUCIAL part of thinking through your old behaviors so that you can replace them with healthier alternatives.

How to get through early stages of recovery

1. Keep confident. Have faith in the process.

2. Keep in mind the reasons you are trying to maintain sobriety. Consider completing a CBA style worksheet like those provide by SMART Recovery.

3. Integrate many levels of care. Figure out your own personal 911. Who will you call when you need help? What medical team of trusted professionals can you lean on?

4. Work on yourself. Reacting to change in a healthy way is important, as is understanding that people are not going to automatically accept that you have changed. Most addicts have done a lot of damage and others are cautious. However, if the motivation for change is strong, you can succeed in the lifelong learning process of recovery.

5. Outline it all in a relapse prevention plan. As we mentioned early, having a plan to identify problems and their solutions is ESSENTIAL to addressing problems BEFORE they occur. Life is not easy for anyone. Challenges WILL come. Your chances for successful recovery will be increased if you anticipate obstacles and take action based on your personalized plan. You are unique! And so is your recovery!

Recovery is a lifelong process

While each person’s recovery is individual, there are many processes that people in recovery share. Reach out to connect with others in support groups, seek ongoing professional help through psychotherapy or behavioral therapy, and actively work on yourself. THIS is the process of lifelong growth.

Have any questions? Please leave them in the comments section below. We try to respond to all legitimate contacts with a personal and prompt reply.

About the author
Jake Sandino is a writer focused within the realm of addiction and substance abuse. He achieved his own recovery through a holistic alcohol and drug rehab approach.
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