You’re going to 12 step meetings, meeting with your counselor, and building a new support network of other sober individuals. Maybe you’re in an IOP or outpatient program, where you’re learning how to deal with triggers in everyday life and building new coping skills. You’re right on track, but you might be wondering “Now what?” Most likely, you entered addiction treatment because your life had become unmanageable. Maybe you couldn’t hold a job when you were using. Maybe you burnt bridges with family and friends, damaging your relationship with your parents or losing contact with your kids. Maybe you eventually became homeless. Now that you’re in recovery you can start to work towards gaining these things back. But the road can seem long, and it can be frustrating not to know when these goals will come to fruition. The simple answer, which everyone hates to hear, is that everything takes time. Slowly but surely things will fall into place if you keep doing the next right thing and keep putting effort into your recovery. After all, anything worth having is worth working for. And it will be work. You worked to get high, and you must work to get sober. Some people become overwhelmed at the thought of this, but there are things you can do in early recovery to begin building a sense of accomplishment and keep yourself on track.
Thinking too far into the future can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially for people in early recovery. You may not have a clear idea of where you see yourself in five years, in one year, or even in six months. That’s okay. Start by setting short-term goals- for the week, or even just for the day. They can be as simple as “Call my parents twice this week, just to say hi, without asking for anything,” or “Give two strangers compliments today.” These are little things, but you’ll be shocked at how much better you feel after you complete each goal. You’ll see that you are capable of doing what you set your mind to.
Many people enter addiction treatment with nothing. No savings account, no job, maybe no car and no place to live. Chances are that your Case Manager started helping you with these issues while you were in treatment, but now you’re back in the “real world.” Finding, and staying in, a safe and healthy living situation is the most important thing. A transitional housing component, like a halfway house, is a great place to start if you don’t have the option to return home following treatment. If you don’t have a car, don’t worry. Many halfway houses are within walking distance, or are a short bus ride away, from possible jobs. You can start gaining some financial stability while living in a supportive environment.
We are always our own worst critics. Individuals in early recovery tend to be overly hard on themselves, thinking that they should have more than what they do, or be further along in their journey than they are. It’s easy to get caught up in these thoughts, especially if you are coming back from a recent relapse. It’s important to break these negative patterns of thinking. One way to do this is to ask yourself, “Where would I be today without my recovery?” Maybe you wouldn’t be allowed to see your child. Maybe you wouldn’t have a place to live. Look at where you are today compared to where you were on your worst day using. You’ll be able to see how far you’ve come and all the things you’ve gained back in your sobriety.
Did you used to enjoy running, but stopped due to your addiction? Have you always wanted to learn how to surf? Early recovery is the perfect time to get back into old hobbies, or to pick up a new trade. Most of your day used to be taken up with drugs and alcohol, and now that you’re sober you need to find a constructive way to fill your spare time. Becoming invested in a hobby, and seeing yourself improve at something the more you do it, will give you a sense of accomplishment. You will realize that you can be successful, and more importantly you will have fun.
That’s right, celebrate. Anytime you hit a milestone or accomplish one of your goals, congratulate yourself. Don’t drain your bank account doing it, but find ways to acknowledge your success. Maybe you landed a new job; go get ice cream with a friend. Just got 60 days sober? Hit a meeting and pick up a 60 day chip, where others in the room will relate to your success and share the joy in it. Be sure not to discount the things you’ve worked hard for. Just a few short months ago, you might have been unemployable, and 60 days sober may have seemed impossible.
Completing addiction treatment is an exciting thing. You now have the opportunity to rebuild a beautiful life in recovery. The journey can seem tedious, and people are often left wondering, “Now what?” It’s important to keep the big picture in mind, but also to stay present in the moment. There are so many little things to celebrate along the way. Utilize the five tips above, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Before long your life will be everything you ever imagined.