You took the hard step and went to treatment. It was a challenge, but you made it through. What now? Back into “real life,” where the structure of treatment doesn’t exist. Your first year of recovery after leaving treatment can be overwhelming, and you may feel like you are living in a foreign country where you can’t quite find your footing.
However, the fog will lift over time, and you can learn to create structure and boundaries that help you succeed in recovery. Rebuilding old relationships and creating new relationships, routines, and habits in your life can help you get through the first year.
The First Year of Recovery
A common misconception about treatment and recovery is that they are solely about the substance or behavior you are looking to change. In the first year after treatment, you will learn recovery involves much, much more.
Humans are creatures of routine, and the practices you build before treatment are often not helpful in maintaining your recovery. For example, if you are abstaining from alcohol, how do you attend your friend’s birthday party? Will it be awkward? Will people be judgmental? What do you drink? “Simple” situations can become complicated after treatment and may feel like there is no way through.
The first year will take the most effort because it requires rewiring and building. However, once you have a method, structure, or new normal, recovery will feel more manageable. If it feels like recovery is taking a lot of energy, this is entirely normal. Creating new habits does take energy, which is part of why it can be such a challenge to do.
Our brains tend towards the “easy way” energetically, which is why you may prefer driving the same way home or cooking a similar meal, particularly when tired. Learning how to live without a substance or other coping behavior takes energy, but once they are built, you will have structure and habits to fall back on.
Obstacles You May Come Across
While many problems will pop up in the first year of recovery, there are ways you can address these problems in different situations.
Life at home can be helpful or a hindrance to your recovery. Primarily, it is essential to have a stable and safe place to live during recovery. While there are times when you can’t control this, working towards finding a home you feel comfortable in is vital. Your home before treatment may not have been safe or stable. However, there are options such as transitional living and sober living locations at 449 Recovery.
Prior to treatment, you may have spent considerable time with others with similar substance or behavior norms. In the first year of recovery, you will be confronted with relationships with a certain status quo. Now that you are making different decisions, your relationships may be different.
Realistically, some relationships can pivot to become sustainable after treatment, while others may not withstand the change. Either way is okay. The most important thing is for you to have loving relationships and social connections, which can come from previous or new relationships.
Remember, making these changes takes time and effort and may involve conversations with friends or family that can be very difficult. You started the process of change in treatment. Trusting someone enough to share how you have changed and what is now important to you can help you feel connected throughout recovery.
If trust and relationships are something you are struggling with, talking to your support group or therapist can help you to process how you feel in these situations. People who understand the process of recovery can help you determine what the best options are for you in that particular relationship or community.
Substances and behavior you have received treatment for are often coping mechanisms you will find you may want to fall back on in your daily life after treatment. In your first year of recovery after a stressful day or in a situation where you feel anxious, you may find yourself thinking of these as an option to deal with the problem at hand.
It can take time to discover new ways to be in these situations and handle a spectrum of feelings. If this is something you are struggling with, try one or multiple of the options below:
- Take your time: If you feel overwhelmed at a party or in a situation, it’s okay to leave or step outside for a walk to clear your head.
- Try replacing: Sometimes, it is helpful to have something rather than nothing. For example, instead of having a beer, try a soda or water.
- Experiment with stress-management techniques: Finding methods to relieve your emotions and stress is important, and finding an enjoyable way to do so can help. Activities such as meditation, walking, playing music, or reading can all help decrease stress and anxiety.
Going through treatment is challenging, and the first year of recovery brings a new set of problems to address. One day at a time, you will rebuild your life in a way that supports your recovery. Be kind to yourself as you discover new ways of living and being with others, the haze of the first year will pass, and when you emerge, you will find yourself in new routines, community, and habits. It is important to find community, a home, and a day-to-day routine that helps you in your recovery. If you are in your first year of recovery and struggling to find your footing, 449 Recovery is here to help. Our outpatient programs can help you find stability as you adjust to a new way of life. To learn more about how we can help you in your recovery, call (949) 435-7449.
Dr. Warren Taff MD, graduated from the University of Birmingham, England School of Medicine, with a BA from Rutgers University. He then went on to UCLA School of Public Health in Los Angeles Health and Human Services and received an MPH. He also attended an internship in internal medicine, with the Veterans Administration. Dr. Taff’s residency includes General Psychiatry at USC, with elective residencies at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia, and Royal College of Psychiatry. Board certifications include American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Taff has extensive experience in both psychiatry and addiction medicine, extending from 1979 to present. He has held professional titles that include Chief of Staff and Medical Directorship in both hospitals and private sectors.