First Year In Recovery: What To Expect

11/19/18: Addiction \ Relapse Prevention

Making the decision to live a sober life is not easy. You are giving up something you’ve become dependent on, but your outlook on the sober life can depend on what you have heard from other people’s experience with it. Some people that have tried it only focus on the negatives, giving it a bad look. But, recovery is different for everyone. Some people may have a harder time than others depending on a lot of variables. However, in the end, it is all worth it no matter how difficult. There are many more long-term benefits to living a sober life when compared to the short-term effects.

A lot can happen in the first year of recovery and if you are thinking about pursuing a sober life, it’s smart to get some insight on what to expect. In the first year of recovery, don’t expect it to be easy. You have become dependent on a substance, it’s not going to be easy to give up. Your body is going to do all it can to get that substance back to feel at ease. This is called withdrawal and it can have some serious, even severe, effects on someone. Getting in the right frame of mind is the best decision you could make before committing to rehabilitation.

what to expect in recoveryEach rehabilitation process is different depending on many variables. Mental health, the substance itself, family history, relationships, willingness to live sober, etc. all factor into a person’s rehabilitation process. A recovery/treatment plan is developed after carefully considering these variables and more like them. This makes every plan different, which leads to each patient receiving a diverse, individual experience.

While all recovery programs and plans are different, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has listed four basic stages that apply to all cases:

  • Initiating the treatment
  • Early abstinence
  • Maintaining abstinence
  • Advance recovery

One of the biggest variables in recovery is what substance is being abused. Some substances are easier to overcome than others. Addiction itself is difficult, but depending on what someone is addicted to can determine how difficult rehabilitation will be. Someone addicted to alcohol may have an easier time with rehabilitation than someone addicted to heroin or opioids. Still, all forms of addiction are difficult to overcome. Anyone going through recovery is bound to feel extreme emotions that can be hard to cope with. It will feel like a rollercoaster of emotions. But, there will also be days where you feel at ease. There’s no way to predict what a person’s first year will be like, but there are many common themes we see with people that go through recovery.

If you want to know what you may expect to see in the first year of recovery, here are some answers:

Each Recovery Process Is Different

As we previously mentioned, not everyone’s recovery process is going to be the same. Some people may have an easy time, some may have a harder time, and some may have a difficulty somewhere in the middle of those. People tend to compare their progress with other people they know that have gone through or are going through recovery. The second you compare your progress with another’s, you may feel like saying “I’m not good enough” or feel a sense of insignificance. But, this is far from true.

You need to realize that it is okay to not be okay and comparing your recovery to another’s is not healthy for you. The end goal is the same for everyone, but the journey differs. Even those who share the same addiction may not have to go through the same process as you. The process someone goes through depends on so many different variables it’s impossible to say that two people will have the same recovery process.

Detoxing Process

Detoxing is a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances. This practice sounds easy enough, but it isn’t. There are multiple steps that go into detox. Depending on what substance is being abused, some people may need a one time detox, while people that are addicted to stronger substances may need a more frequent detox. The detox process is meant for ridding the body of the substances it has become so dependent on; cleansing itself of any toxins. This process can take up to a couple week depending on what the person is detoxing from.

Ridding Oneself Of Toxic Relationships

If someone is struggling with addiction, chances are they abused the substance due to something in their life. Sometimes, this can mean a relationship with a significant other, family member, or friend. Abuse from a family member, unsupportive spouse, or a peer pressuring friend may be reasons for why someone abuses a substance. One thing you can expect to do in the first of recovery is cut off relationships like these. Though it may sound easy to do, there is still a relationship somewhere beneath all the toxicity and that can make it harder to end. Some people may be afraid of how the person may react after their relationship is cut off and this is understandable. But, sobriety is your main goal and if it means cutting off these toxic relationships, it must be done. Reevaluating your relationships is all apart of the recovery process.

Even in the case of non-toxic relationships, you may need to let go of some as well. If there is any sort of relationship in your life, good or bad, that is hindering your recovery, it’s smart to say goodbye for the time being. This is necessary to ensure long-term sobriety.

Relapse Symptoms

One of the biggest issues someone in recovery will face is relapse/withdrawal symptoms. If someone has created such a high dependency on a substance to live a ‘happy’ life, it won’t be easy to give up. The person's body will fight against itself to get that substance back in order to feel better. This is called withdrawal and it can be extremely difficult to deal with. Your mind/body will want to seek chemical refuge, but you need to do all you can to fight against those urges. Withdrawal will bring about feelings of stress, irritation, uncomfortableness, and many other feelings and they can be difficult to fight against. You may find yourself relapsing. Relapses are in no way a good thing, but sometimes they happen. In order to avoid a relapse, you need to find coping mechanisms and ways you can fight off any urges you may be feeling from your withdrawal symptoms. It can be difficult to deal with triggers that set off withdrawal, but there are plenty of ways to cope with them. Try finding hobbies to occupy your body and mind so you can avoid any cravings to fall back into chemical dependency.

Each person’s journey through recovery is different, they are never the same. Some people may have an easier time than others, but make sure you never compare your journey to another's. Recovery is full of ups and downs, but just focus on your individual journey so you successfully detox and avoid any possible relapse. Recovery is possible, it just takes some time.

Content for Arizona Addiction by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment and technology. Advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best. www.cohn.media


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email info@arizonaaddiction.com to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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