Addiction recovery is a beautiful, difficult journey. This is a chance to turn over a new leaf, start fresh, and create a new life to be your happiest, healthiest self. It’s important to embrace not only your newfound sobriety but also all the new opportunities that come with it.
Simply being sober is not the only thing you have to do in order to maintain your sobriety. Especially in the initial stages of recovery, it can be all too easy to slip into old, unhealthy habits. Commit to this new beginning and consider the following as you establish your life in recovery:
Commit to Your Sobriety
Recovery is a full-time job. The process is endless, but it is about the journey — not the destination. Relapse, even after years of sobriety, is a very real possibility that you will face. Various triggers, events, and people may make you want to stray from the path of recovery, but you need to commit wholeheartedly to your sobriety.
Don’t be afraid to admit if you are struggling, especially if it’s early in your journey. Seek additional help if you need to. There are many different treatment and recovery options available, from individual counseling, 12-step programs, inpatient facilities, and other recovery services. Accessing and affording recovery services can be difficult, but your health and happiness are worth it.
Keep Your Real Friends Close
Having a strong support system is vital to maintaining sobriety, and during treatment and recovery, you will find out who your true friends are. Be sure to surround yourself with people who love you and care about your recovery. Find friends, family, and others in recovery who will help you make healthy choices, hold you accountable to your sobriety, and provide support on your bad days.
In addition, consider cutting ties with people who are toxic in your life, make you feel like using or drinking, or who enabled you in the past. This may sound extreme or dramatic, but you may risk relapse if you continue to spend time with people who trigger your desire to use or are unsupportive of your recovery. If you choose to keep these people in your life, set clear and firm boundaries in your friendship and don’t be afraid to let a relationship go if it begins to affect your sobriety in a negative way.
Pursue Your Dreams
Take some time to think about the other aspects of your life. What can you do to set yourself up for success in this new phase of life? What changes can you make to support your sobriety? What will you do to fill time that you previously spent using? Often, people will use this time to learn a new skill, hobby, or job to enrich their lives.
Use this chance to consider bigger changes and long-term goals as well. Do you dream of traveling, moving to a new city, or making a career change? Consider what steps you will need to take to achieve those goals. For example, to start a new career, you may have to return to school, as almost two-thirds of all jobs will require postsecondary education by 2020. These goals may take more time to achieve, but by making decisions that will support your sobriety, you will end up leading a more fulfilling life.
Be Kind to Yourself
At the end of the day, you must take care of yourself. Let go of any guilt or shame and be kind to yourself. You have spent so long indulging in self-destructive behaviors that it’s time to spend time working on loving yourself. Addiction is a disease, and you are just beginning to recover from it. You may experience raw, negative emotions as you start this journey, but you have to forgive yourself for past mistakes and move on. You will only hold yourself back from success if you can’t be kind to yourself.
Every recovering addict has strategies to fill their lives with happiness and kindness. Finding your own can take time and plenty of trial and error.
Recovery experts suggest asking others about their own relapse avoidance strategies: “try them out, see what makes you happy, and make a routine out of it.” Don’t be afraid to keep trying different things until you’ve found a routine that actually makes you happy. Create a life for yourself where you feel fulfilled, happy, and don’t want to use or drink.
When in the throes of addiction, it’s difficult to see beyond yourself and your need to continue using. Addiction often causes people to act selfishly so they can get their next fix. But after breaking free of that and committing to your sobriety, embrace the chance to live and act selflessly. Not only is service to others an important part of programs like Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, but it can also help you on your own journey to recovery.
Serving others can be a lot simpler than you may think. While doing volunteer work for a local charity or nonprofit is a wonderful way to be of service to others, it is far from the only thing you can do to help. Little actions throughout the day, such as holding the door open for someone or helping someone clean up after a meeting, can make a world of difference for both you and others. You never know when a something small and simple will brighten someone’s entire day — possibly even your own. That’s one of the most powerful tools to have at your disposal as you begin your recovery journey.
Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy yourself. Getting sober is not the end of something; rather, it is the beginning of something greater. Do your best to seize this opportunity to do everything you always wanted but didn’t have the chance to do because of your addiction.
Don’t be afraid to make a new beginning in your life by doing all you can for your sobriety, health, and happiness (after all, aren’t those the same things?). Remember, your recovery is worth it. Let go of your former self and embrace this new chance at life.
Madison Ann Baker is a writer, Netflix-binger, and pop culture enthusiast who lives in Idaho. Literature and linguistics are her two passions, both of which she studied in college. She enjoys writing about animals and health and wellness, but dabbles in a little bit of everything. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her Borador, Dash, and re-reading Harry Potter. For for info visit her on Twitter and Contently.