Early Recovery: The First Few Months
by Rose Lockinger
Each person will experience early recovery in their own way. During an alcohol or drug detox individuals will respond to withdrawal in different ways. Some are fortunate and experience immediate relief from cravings, and a renewed sense of hope. They may feel physically well and in good spirits. This does happen, but not everyone has this experience.
Some will continue to struggle with cravings, and may experience symptoms like insomnia, bouts of crying or depression, a lack of energy and focus, and powerful feelings of anger, grief or loss.
There are often other issues at play as well. You may or may not be in treatment, you may be dealing with outside stressors such as finances, family issues and a lack of housing. Many things may be vying for your attention at a time when you really need to be focusing on yourself and your recovery. It’s tough.
Common Issues In Early Recovery
It’s important to have a realistic view of early recovery. You may struggle in the beginning, but this early time doesn’t dictate what recovery will become for you.
Take it easy on yourself, and remember that your body, brain and emotions are going through a serious healing process, and sometimes healing is uncomfortable. There are things you can do, however, to make things easier on yourself.
Here are some common problems and strategies you can use to handle them:
You’ve stopped using. You feel good about it and you know it’s the right thing -- but you’re having cravings! What’s wrong? Well, nothing. It’s normal to have cravings. Some people don’t experience them, but many, if not most, continue to experience them, sometimes even years into their recovery. This is called PAWS and should be discussed with a professional. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.
Dealing with cravings requires a multi-pronged approach. The first thing is to acknowledge them. Don’t try to pretend they aren’t happening, or beat yourself up over it. Talk to people. This is key when you share about the thoughts you are having you take away the power they may hold.
If you are in treatment, talk to your counselor, bring it up at groups or meetings. If you have a sponsor, talk to them about it. Don’t keep cravings a secret!
Secondly, check in with yourself to make sure that you are taking good care of you. See the below suggestions for ways to do this. Cravings are often triggered by lack of self-care. Finally, stay away from people, places and things that may tempt or trigger you further. You don’t need that.
You might experience anger, sadness, fear and anxiety one day, and the next feel joyful, excited and hopeful. You may even experience this range throughout the day. It’s okay. Rapidly changing moods and emotions are common.
You can help keep things more balanced by practicing good self-care, talking to people you trust, journaling, meditating and trying not to judge or fight your feelings. They are normal.
Fatigue, Lethargy, Insomnia, Restlessness
While these are all different problems, they can be handled with similar approaches. Your brain is going through a huge healing process, trying to balance and normalize itself. Your body may be depleted.
It’s totally normal to feel tired all the time, or alternately, to feel restless, agitated and fidgety. Insomnia is also a common problem, especially in the first 90 days. How can you get relief from these issues? Here are some suggestions:
Get Enough Sleep
Yes, it’s easier said than done. But if you are sleep deprived you will find that you don’t have enough energy, you’re shorter-tempered and more easily overwhelmed. Since insomnia is so common, you may have to take some steps to insure you get those much-needed zzzz’s.
- No caffeine after 2:00 pm.
- Turn off all screens a good two hours before bed.
- Consider a filter app like f.lux to filter out the light.
- Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every night.
- Keep your room completely dark.
- Try a fan for white noise.
- Create a bedtime ritual. Keep lights and sounds low, do something relaxing and not too stimulating.
- Avoid sugary or heavy foods before bed.
If you find that you can’t sleep, do your best to keep activity minimal, and keep trying to go to bed at the same time -- it will work!
Get Exercise Every Day
As much as you may be feeling tired, exercise is a great way to increase energy and elevate mood. It will also help you sleep better at night. Even if you only take a walk each day to start, you’ll enjoy the benefits of improved mood, clearer thinking and a healthier body. You may want to consider giving yoga a try, or strength training. Whatever type of exercise makes you feel good.
This is just more self-care, but it’s important. You’ll only continue to feel dragged down and unhappy if you are piling on sugar and other low-quality foods. Eat foods that are high in protein. Eat lots of vegetables. Drink lots of water.
Get Plenty Of Support
Finally, be sure you are surrounding yourself with supportive people who believe in you and encourage your new, healthy lifestyle. Make friends in recovery, hang out with people who are positive and healthy.
About the Author:
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world.