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Unofficial Steps to Conquering Early Recovery

February 24, 2016

t Cassiobury Court we treated thousands of patients each year for drug and alcohol addiction. Many of these patients are new to life 'in recovery.'

Patients often enter their new abstinence existence following many years of drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Patients frequently cite the first three months of their recovery for being most difficult. This notion is almost universally agreed by people now living in recovery.

Studies reveal the greatest number of relapses occur during the first 90 days of being in recovery. During this time, the resolve of new comings to recovery will be tested, and some unfortunately will suffer from a relapse.

Many new to recovery will be surprised and delighted by their new found energy. Unfortunately, this means those new to recovery are too over confident, a condition known as 'pink cloud syndrome'. This means they may neglect going to meetings or expose themselves to their 'addiction triggers' believing they have gained the required mental strength to avoid a relapse.

Unfortunately, the early days of recovery are the most fragile, and when you are your most vulnerable to relapse.

To assist those new to recovery, we have authored this list of unofficial steps to conquering the early days of being 'in recovery.'

Many of these 'steps' are strictly guidelines, but we urge you to nevertheless follow them as if they were rules.

Some are proven.

Some are controversial.

You may even say some of the below 'steps' are mere speculation.

But they're all included for your reference.

Step #1. Be prepared for your return home following the completion of treatment

If you sought inpatient treatment, ensure you make suitable arrangements for your return home. This typically means ensuring you receive some form of care from your loved ones. Stock up on nutritious foods and vitamin supplements.

You must also purge your home of booze, non-essential medications and any other items that threatens your recovery.

These steps will ensure you return to a safe and caring environment following the conclusion of rehab.

Step #2: Get the support from friends/loved ones

Succeeding in your recovery is easier if you have the support of friends and family members. This means educating your friends and family about the science and nature of addiction.

Assistance from loved ones is almost essential during the first few days and weeks following rehab when you will likely require mental and psychical support.

We urge you to reach out to loved ones who will encourage your recovery. This may require you to reach out to loved ones who are not in your immediate family or friendship circle.

Step #3. Know Your Triggers of Addiction and Avoid them

Seasoned recovered addicts may be able to cope when exposed to their 'triggers' of addiction. However, if you are new to recovery then we advise you avoid your triggers of addiction at all cost. This advice holds true no matter how strong you believe yourself to be.

Some of these 'triggers' typically include:

  • Hanging out at old 'haunts' such as pubs and night clubs
  • Hanging out with former drinking friends who are not themselves in recovery
  • Exposing yourself certain situations that are likely to induce stress, anger or other negative emotions
  • Neglecting sleep and good nutrition

Step #4: Don't be overconfident

At Cassiobury Court I've seen many of our patients experience overconfidence when they've achieved their recovery 'milestone.' This is often known as 'pink cloud syndrome.' In fact, I've even witnessed patients self-discharge themselves before their treatment concluded because they felt 'so strong.' This reasoning is faulty and often results in early relapse.

Recovery isn't really a 'milestone.' Rather, recovery requires an ongoing effort. That's why it is called 'being in recovery' rather than being 'recovered.'

Premature overconfidence in your recovery often means you return to your pre-recovery lifestyle patterns. Again, this all-to-often results in an early relapse.

Step #5: Keep going to meetings

Unfortunately many people new to recovery stop going to recovery meetings, believing them to be a waste of time.

When we say 'meetings' we mean aftercare sessions, AA, NA, SMART Recovery etc.

Some people new to recovery reason they've 'made the grade', since they're 'in recovery.'

So why continue going to these time-costing meetings?

Because they these meetings serve as a reminder of the reality of the situation you are in. You will learn from more experienced people about the delicacy of your situation. Therefore it is essential you continue to go to meetings for at least the initial 90 days of your recovery.

For this reason, many meeting groups offer a '90 in 90' service. This allows you to attend meetings every day for 90 days.

Step #6: Enlist a 'sponsor' or mentor

A sponsor or mentor is typically a person who has lived 'in recovery' for many years. This person will aid you through the fragile initial weeks and months of your own recovery, and will other his or her assistance if you experience a crisis that threatens your recovery.

Step #7: Prioritise your recovery over all other commitments

When you are new to recovery, we urge you to exercise a sense of selfishness. This means not attending that wedding, party or gathering where alcohol is served.

Do not assure you are strong enough to cope with the temptation, because you are highly likely not.

Put your recovery before your career, you family and your friends.

This step may sound abstract and ethereal, but psychological commitment and setting your priorities in favour of your recovery is absolutely key.

Step #8: Set goals that promote healthy living

When you are new to recovery, you will be surprised at the amount of spare time that becomes available to you. This is because you no longer consume your time by taking drugs and alcohol.

It's essential you refocus your goals so that boredom does not kick in. Boredom is a major trigger of addiction.

Ensure you litter your diary with meetings, activities and occasions.

Step #9: Get lots of sleep

Disturbed sleep is common for people new to recovery. When you are addicted to drug or alcohol, your sleep patterns are disrupted, and it takes time to return to a healthy sleeping regime.

Nightmares involving alcohol use are common for people new to recovery.

We recommend you avoid medications designed to help you sleep. Many of these medications are themselves highly addictive.

Instead follow the below advice:

  1. Establish a comfortable sleeping environment
  2. Stick to a pre-agreed sleeping timetable when you sleep and arise at a set time each night and day
  3. Avoid caffeine after 5pm
  4. Avoid 'cat naps'
  5. Maintain a sleep diary
  6. Do not snack after 8pm
  7. Do not consume large meals after 6pm
  8. Keep your bed for sleeping. Don not watch TV or read whilst in bed

Step #10: Take nutrition seriously

When you are hungry you are likely to feel down. When you feel down, you risk put your recovery at risk.

Likewise, when you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar is likely to yo-yo. This yo-you effect on your blood sugar levels is likely to make you feel bad. When you feel bad, you risk your recovery.

So don't set yourself up for failure by snacking on poor quality food. Instead, consume lots of nutritious food rich in vitamins and minerals. This includes seafood, lean meat, whole foods and whole grains.

Now we include some real-life case studies detailing how these people dealt with the early stages of their recovery . . .

** Case Study #1: Neil Scott from Oasis Counselling

Hi, my name is Neil and I run Oasis Counselling in South Africa. I was 40 and working when I started recovery. My life was narrow, without hope and unmanageable. Always a heavy drinker, as my life stalled I increasingly used alcohol to make me feel okay and to function. However this worsened both my outlook and my anxiety.

Tough love and the sense that my life wasn’t working combined to lead me to seek medical help.

I did 28 days primary care in UK and 3 months extended secondary care in South Africa. Treatment consisted of group therapy, one to one counselling, assignments and various activities and outings.

How I dealt with the early stages of my recovery

After treatment I attended AA meetings regularly, got a sponsor, did the steps and socialized with friends in early recovery. I also still attended one to ones and Aftercare therapy. I talked about my anxiety, fears, and confusion. I began to help others in recovery. I did temporary work, paid rent, bills and kept my word. I earned respect and trust from others and my family slowly. Confidence grew and anxiety lessened. I started to live in reality and truth.

I am 9 years sober. Life will always be somewhat difficult yet, sober, it is not impossible.

** Case Study #2: Victor Leonard

My name is Victor Leonard and I am a fifty-three years old. I was born in the City of Winnipeg, but later grew up in the crazy and often dangerous steelworker’s town of Selkirk, Manitoba.

My drinking career started quite early on at 11 or 12 years of age. I experienced a traumatic childhood and moved away from home at fifteen with only a grade-nine education.

I did quite well for myself and eventually started my own company. I was happily married with one daughter and a beautiful home on the water.

A stock market crash took away my company and not long after I was a divorced single parent. Several years later I was injured on a jobsite and lost the ability to work. Then everything went downhill from the drugs and alcohol!

I began my recovery process in 2010. However, it took several years to remove these substances from my life. It was a terrible battle in those early days. I tried councillors, doctors, psychiatrists, and hundreds of AA meetings, but nothing could remove those deadly cravings.

How I dealt with the early stages of my recovery

Through turmoil and tragedy I eventually connected with my “Higher Power” who is God of the Bible. Only he could do for me what I could not and I am eternally grateful to God for my spiritual awakening!

I now serve other addicts and alcoholics through writing faith based books and my weekly blog.

** Case Study #3: Todd Crandell from Racing for Recovery

How I dealt with the early stages of my recovery

During my early stages of recovery I focused on simply putting the same effort into bettering myself that was previously used for self-destruction. I looked at people who had what I wanted and then I put ACTION into doing the work. I read book, watched movies, exercised, talked with family, ate healthy, got educated and applied that knowledge. I also began to deal with the emotional issues that lead to my CHOICE to use drugs and began the healing process.

I began to build a new sober network and lifestyle. I avoided any negativity in any capacity and utilized positive thoughts and actions to guide my new way of living.

There is no relapse this is a daily choice we make each and every day and I wanted the self-empowerment mind-set to guide my life not the “powerless” of I can’t help myself

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