Following a few early sobriety tips can make the transition from treatment to ongoing recovery so much easier. There’s no denying that the first few months can be difficult – you’re on your own again for the first time since entering the programme and your senses are on high alert.
Avoiding relapse and staying alcohol-free is your main objective and, although that can seem like a daunting task, these tips for the early stages of your recovery can make things easier.
1.Take One Day at a Time
Some experts refer to the first 90 days after treatment as the early stages, while others consider a year a more realistic period. In truth, there is no correct time frame. Each person is different, and what seems right for one may not be for another. That’s why it’s so important to take one day at a time. Treat every 24-hour period as a new start and you’ll learn to enjoy the various challenges that each day brings.
2. Make Some Basic Changes
If you really want to stay sober, you need to make a conscious effort to establish new habits and routines. Many people find that even small changes can aid recovery. Obviously, it’s important to distance yourself from the people and places that you associate with drinking. Something as small as choosing an alternative route to work or to the supermarket, one that doesn’t take you past your old hangouts, can be helpful. The change itself isn’t as important as the fact that you are doing something different.
It’s also important to recognise what needs changing. Perhaps you were in the habit of going for a drink after work or pouring a glass of wine as soon as you arrived home. Or maybe you always had an after-dinner drink that turned into more than one. It’s vital that you break the chain, otherwise, you will always be subconsciously reaching for that glass. Try to replace the trip to the pub with something else or do something different when you arrive home. Good alternatives include:
- Spending time with your family
- Sports like football, squash or swimming
- Going for a walk
- Cooking a meal
- Listening to music, watching a film or reading a book
- Going to live events like concerts, plays and exhibitions
3. Plan Ahead
During your treatment programme, you discussed the causes of high-risk situations or HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Avoiding situations that put you at risk is now a priority. A chaotic lifestyle can put you at more risk and hinder your recovery, so it’s well worth developing a regular routine or schedule. Learn how to structure your day or week by creating a lifestyle plan and sticking to it.
Get up and go to bed at reasonable times instead of rising at noon or burning the midnight oil. Eat regular, well-balanced meals at the appropriate times. Attend meetings or support groups and make a note of appointment times. Set aside times for work, chores, shopping and sports or relaxation. Make a chart and stick it to the fridge if you find it helpful or simply add tasks to your planner.
As you get used to doing things at certain times, you’ll establish a normal and manageable cycle and you’re less likely to think about drinking. And, once your life is more structured, you’ll be able to actively pursue long-term goals. These might include a change of career or the start of a college course. Instead of setting goals that may prove unrealistic, set simpler goals that are easier to achieve.
4. Build Healthy Relationships
All addictions are time-consuming. As your need for alcohol accelerated, it’s likely that the only people you saw on a regular basis were fellow drinkers or those who enabled your addiction in some way – carers who picked up drinks from the supermarket or family members who turned a blind eye, for example. These are classed as unhealthy relationships and maintaining them during the early stages of recovery could well lead to relapse.
It’s vital that you form and develop healthy relationships. Your primary goal is to stay clean and, unfortunately, that often means severing links with people who you consciously or subconsciously associate with drinking. It can be difficult where family members are concerned, so aim to limit any contact for at least the first three months.
You may also find that some previously close friends or relatives are less inclined to spend time with you now. Apologise and carry on, there’s only so much that you can do and it takes time to re-establish trust. However, if you stay sober and lead a productive life, people are more likely to give you another chance. Try to meet new people. Join a club or group, it could be a sports club, a book club or an art class, just anywhere that you can potentially make new friends.
However, it’s best to avoid sexual or emotional relationships during the first year of recovery. If things don’t work out with a new partner, you’ll feel lonely, hurt, sad and disappointed, and the emotional stress alone can trigger a relapse. Remind yourself that, in a short time, you’ll be more confident in your ability to stay sober and more able to handle loving relationships.
Go to 12-step meetings or an appropriate support group where you can talk with others who are facing the same challenges. It can be incredibly helpful to discuss day to day details with people who have been clean for some time and they often offer the most useful early sobriety tips.
5. Take Good Care of Yourself
If you drank for any length of time, you’re probably not as fit or healthy as you could be. Exercise can help you to avoid relapse and it can reverse some of the effects that alcohol inevitably had on your system.
Participating in sports or recreational activities when you’re newly sober has several benefits. Physical exertion builds muscle tone and increases core strength. Exercise also triggers the production of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin and the release of endorphins – a process that can reduce stress and boredom and which leaves you feeling happier and more confident.
Combining regular exercise with good nutrition will reduce any lingering post-acute withdrawal symptoms as well as improving your overall health. Try to choose well-balanced meals that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates and drink plenty of water. It’s also worth setting up an ongoing personal care plan during the first few months of recovery. Make appointments for eye and dental check-ups and register with a GP if you don’t already have one. You can find addresses for local practices online.
Finally, during the early stages of recovery, try to exchange the word ‘can’t’ for ‘can’. You can’t drink. You CAN, however, expect to live a longer, healthier, happier and less stressful life.
Slips, Relapses and Recovery
If you experience a slip in your sobriety, or even a full-blown relapse, remember that recovery is still possible and you are not beyond help. Nor are you a failure! After a slip-up, you have not unlearned all that you gained from previous treatment and recovery. You can take action to get back on track to be successful.
Relapse is serious, and if using your support and healthy coping skills is not enough to get you back on track after a slip, you may consider re-entering an addiction treatment centre. Even if you have been through alcohol or drug rehab before, there is always more to learn about addiction and recovery. The sooner you get help, the better the chances are of getting and staying sober.
If you would like more information about The Cabin Chiang Mai, Thailand’s leading alcohol rehab centre, contact us today for a no obligation assessment and to see how we can help you.