By: Nadia Sheikh – content writer and web developer for Sober Nation.
Life in recovery isn’t easy at the beginning, whether you’re leaving treatment or getting sober on your own. Old habits die hard, and we can tend to slip back into our addict behaviors. Here are some goals to work towards in early recovery that can help keep you on track.
Build a Support Network
Family and friends are important, their support and love are major gifts in recovery. As addicts and alcoholics, though, our support network needs to go beyond our family and lifelong friends. These people may have our best interests at heart, but we also may have deceived them in the past or been enabled by them.
Sober supports are people who are also living in recovery and can encourage you on your own journey. When I have a craving, when my day goes sour and I want to punch the wall, when I get bored with daily life, I can tell my sober supports. As addicts and alcoholics, we feel things strongly and our emotions can cloud our ability to make healthy decisions. My sober supports understand this, usually from their own experiences with addiction and alcoholism, and they can guide me in those moments.
I find most of my sober supports at recovery meetings, whether they be 12-step meetings or other meetings like SMART Recovery. I even keep in contact with the wonderful people I met at my halfway house and treatment center. A sober support can be a sponsor, or just another person who raises their hand and shares about a feeling you know well. Go talk to them after the meeting, get their phone number, build your support network.
Tell People How You Feel
As you build your support network, you need to call them to maintain that support. Calling people regularly has helped me get into the habit of telling people what I feel. In my addiction, I was a hermit who avoided people at all costs. Sharing feelings was not my forte when I got sober. But, with practice it becomes easier.
Talking about feelings may sound cheesy, but it can free negative thoughts from your brain and stop them from stewing. Being honest allows someone in your support network to hold you accountable for what you do with those feelings. Letting those feelings out can even improve your physical health by reducing stress.
Sometimes, I practice telling my sponsor how I feel, even if I just feel frustrated that I’m a drug addict and can’t party like a normal person. Other times, I practice sharing at a meeting. Maybe I get something off my chest and find a group of support. Maybe I share something that helps another person and I become a support for them, too. Recovery is not about burying our feelings like we used to. It’s an entirely new way of life that embraces honesty, self-awareness, and the roller coaster that is life. Let it all hang out.
Take Care of Yourself
Obviously, when I was using I wasn’t taking care of myself. In recovery, we aren’t just remaining abstinent from drugs, our bodies and minds are healing from the damage we’ve caused. Yes, we’ve abused substances, which take a toll on our bodies, but we also have neglected the basics like nutrition and sleep. We need to relearn how to take care of ourselves.
I need to eat enough food, making sure that I am nourishing my body rather than overloading it with sugar and junk-food (which also have addictive properties). I need to get enough rest each night so I have energy for my day and my body can heal. I need to exercise and stay active in order to take care of my bodily and mental wellness. The endorphins released by exercise can boost our mood during the slumps we may encounter early in recovery. Finding this healthy balance is just a matter of practice, finding your groove in sobriety.
Find a Job
Part of the balance of sobriety is finding a job. I never thought I would be the person who wakes up every morning, has my coffee, goes to work, and definitely not someone who shows up to work on time. I didn’t want to believe it in my addiction, but we all need some form of a job to support ourselves.
Early recovery jobs aren’t easy. My first job was as a cashier at a burger joint and I could hardly pay my bills. I complained about how rude the customers were, that I wasn’t getting paid enough, that my shoes hurt my feet. The fact of the matter: I had a job, I showed up on time, I did my best every day, and I was grateful that they had hired me and gave me a paycheck.
Believe it or not, I learned a lot at that job about self-esteem, patience, and perseverance. I was so broken when I first got sober, and the confidence I have now has been accumulated slowly, through daily esteemable acts. I take pride in the work that I’ve done, in the work I’m doing now, and in being a reliable employee. I never thought I could do this thing called life, but here I am doing it.
Find Time for Fun
My idea of fun used to be centered on the party or whatever substance I could get my hands on. In recovery, I didn’t know what I liked to do besides drugs. I didn’t know what gave my life meaning, because eventually drugs were the only thing I made time for.
Fun in sobriety isn’t just knitting or going bowling with your sober supports. These are fantastic options, but what do YOU enjoy doing? Do you like to write, or draw, or sing? Do you like to cook fantastic meals or decorate cakes? Do you like to drive with the windows down? Do you prefer sunrise or sunset? What music can you dance to the best? Have you ever finger-painted with your toes?
Discover what you like to do, what makes your day feel meaningful. Treat yourself to your favorite song from middle school or an ice cream cone or a nice nap or a long cry. Life isn’t compartmentalized into the good and the bad things, the fun and the boring things. Life is happening all of the time, changing all of the time, and all of this time is yours to spend however you choose. Rather than numbing everything out, like the smell of raspberries or the warmth of the sidewalk on your bare feet, you have the chance to be feeling and experiencing all of this.
In recovery, we get another chance at life, so make it your goal to make the most of it. For a long time, drugs were my everything. But there is so much more to life, and there is so much more to who you are than drugs and alcohol. It’s time to start finding out what you’re all about.
About the Author: Nadia Sheikh is a content writer and web developer for Sober Nation. She loves words, grapes, and outer space.