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Navigating Your First Year of Sobriety


You did it. You recognized that you had a problem with drugs or alcohol, you sought out treatment, and now you are ready to embrace your new, substance-free lifestyle.

Being newly sober is wonderful and exhilarating, and you may feel like your life is beginning all over again. The first year can also be challenging as well, says the staff at Enlightened Solutions, a treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction that is also licensed to treat the mental health issues that frequently accompany substance use disorders. The first year of sobriety can be a fragile time in a person’s life, and relapses do occur. So what can you do to make your first year successful?

Consider a Sober Living House

After completing a treatment program, you may want to live in a sober living house for a time if that is appropriate for your situation. (If you are married with children, for example, you will probably need and want to go home to be with your family). A sober living house is a facility that provides a structured and supportive living situation for people who have finished treatment programs for drug or alcohol abuse. These facilities provide a transition to mainstream society from the highly structured environment of a treatment program.

Moving into a sober living house can have many benefits, but the most important one is that you will be surrounded by people who are all focused on recovery. In addition, at a sober living house, all the residents have responsibilities related to maintaining the house, but not as many as you may have in your own home. This lightened responsibility leaves you with more time to focus on your recovery.

Create a Routine

One of the most important steps you can take in early recovery is to create a routine for yourself. In treatment, you followed a highly structured and very busy routine. If you aren’t returning to a  job or school, you may find yourself with lots of spare time on your hands. Before treatment, you may have spent a lot of time with your abused substance of choice and if you have time to fill it can be easy to slip back into old, self-destructive habits. Boredom can often lead to relapse.

Recovery is about more than cutting out your substance abuse; recovery is about filling your time with life- and soul-affirming habits. Your routine in recovery should include the healthy habits that you want to incorporate into your life.

One of the habits you will want to develop is that of planning and eating nutritious meals. During the time when you were abusing your substance of choice, eating healthy meals may not have been uppermost in your mind. Part of recovery is healing your body and you need nutritious meals to do that.

Another habit you may need to develop in recovery is making time for regular exercise. Exercise has tremendous benefits, both physical and mental, including reduced stress, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep. In addition, exercising is a terrific way to take up the time that you used to spend drinking or abusing drugs. The most important thing to remember in choosing an exercise is to pick a form of exercise that you enjoy, be it training for a marathon, taking ballet class six days a week, or rock climbing. (Be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning your exercise program.)

You will also want to make time for a spiritual practice. You may want to affiliate with a faith community, attend regular services, and study that tradition’s holy texts. You may want to begin your mornings with meditation and prayer. You may want to start a yoga practice and combine spirituality with physicality. You may find that you are more in touch with the spiritual aspect of yourself when you are in nature and can make it a point to regularly spend time in the natural world. Whatever spiritual practice resonates with you, know that spirituality is an important part of your recovery and should be a part of your regular routine.

Seek Support From Other People

You don’t need to recover from addiction on your own; in fact, you probably shouldn’t. When you are in recovery, especially in your first year of sobriety, the help from other people will be invaluable.

The most obvious place to seek support will be from other people in recovery because they know exactly what you are going through. Attending support group meetings usually begins while you are still in treatment and will be important to you throughout your life. If you went through treatment in the community where you live, you may already be in a support group; if not, you should find one. Many people in recovery choose to go to 12-Step meetings and many treatment centers incorporate the 12-Step tenets into their programs. Twelve-Step meetings are available worldwide and many meetings are substance-specific, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Crystal Meth Anonymous. Other people in recovery choose to attend SMART Recovery meetings, another abstinence-oriented program. Many people also find that working with a therapist is very helpful in recovery. In addition, you may find that some of your friends and family members are supportive of your recovery and will help you maintain sobriety.

The first year of recovery is a very exciting time, but it can be challenging as well. To be successful, you will need to establish healthy habits. At Enlightened Solutions, we will teach you the life skills that you need to build a solid foundation for a lasting recovery. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and rooted in the 12-Step tradition. Our focus is on treating the whole person and we develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient. Our treatment program combines traditional talk therapy, both one-on-one and in a group setting, with ancient wellness practices, including meditation and yoga. We offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including Family Constellation Therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), art and music therapy, sound therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, equine therapy, and nutritional education. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse and are ready to break free of a life controlled by drugs and alcohol, call us at (833) 801-5483 to learn more about our programs.