If you’re just getting started on your recovery journey, it might feel like the road ahead of you is exceedingly long. That’s why it’s so important to think about what life after addiction is like in general—and what it’s going to be like for you. In this post, we’re going to explore life after addiction, what the experts say about it, and what real people say about their own experiences. Get inspired thinking about your moving forward.
Getting back into life
Getting integrated back into the day-to-day world you left behind as an addict can feel like emerging from hibernation. This transition process demands multiple changes, resolutions, and steps. If you are freshly sober, or hoping to be soon, and you want to be certain that things go right during your recovery, there’s a lot you can do to improve your chances.
Take it slow
Everyone wants success to happen as quickly as possible, but rushing things is a mistake. You may feel powerful, and of course you should take advantage of those feelings and enjoy your new life. But don’t overdo things. You are still getting used to your new life, and your process will be ongoing.
Allison points out that it’s not easy to accept your feelings when you’re first getting sober, and this is why taking it slow is important: “The biggest challenge, in my opinion, is learning to accept and deal with feelings. I drank and used to escape my feelings so it’s a real rude awakening when you have to deal with your raw feelings (anger, hurt, resentment, etc.) without self-medicating.”
A chance to make up for past hurts
It is the nature of addiction that people in the throes of it sometimes hurt others. Life after addiction will mean a second chance for you and the people you care about. Now you will have the ability to discover everything you did—or didn’t do—that hurt the people around you. You may not always be aware of the ways you hurt people, either, so now is the time to listen calmly.
Your family and friends are relieved to have you back! But that can’t erase everything that happened, so work hard to repair harms you caused and make up for past hurts. Making things right will help you feel better, and it will mean the world to the people around you.
Know what people expect from you. . .
Starting fresh means making everything clear up front. Don’t let things go unsaid; find out what your friends and family expect from you. You are remodeling relationships that may have been damaged for years, so you need to know. Finding out makes your tasks so much easier, and lets them know how committed you are to your own success. It also helps you and the people around you set and maintain realistic expectations as you move forward together.
. . .and follow through
Now that you know what everyone wants and needs from you—and you’ve talked to them about what you want and need—follow through! Prove that you can and will fulfill your obligations from here on out.
Find friends who support your sobriety
Spending time with the people you used to drink or use drugs with is a terrible mistake. They may say that they support your sobriety, and they may even mean it when they say it, but their behavior makes them unable to effectively support you. Furthermore, just being in the same circles and environments is going to stimulate you in the wrong ways. Don’t be sentimental now; be smart.
Barney describes his own experience with the potential trap of old relationships: “You should very seriously consider cutting ties with anyone who you did drugs with or know can get drugs easily for you. This is possibly the hardest part because of how emotional it can be. It’s important because if you don’t, you know that there is always a way out. If it gets too tough to be sober, you can always hit up a friend or a drug dealer and get high again, and you already know that is a good way to avoid problems.”
Discover new interests and activities
As an addict, life is all about drinking or getting high, and figuring out how to get the next fix. Now that your life isn’t revolving around substance abuse, what would you like to do with it? Fill the absence of substance abuse in with new interests and activities that are engaging, constructive, and fun. Go back to school, pursue a new hobby, volunteer for a cause that matters to you—just do something new and positive.
Cory thinks back to the ways his former interests were a danger zone for him: “I finally made a clean break from all of the bad influences and environments in my life. The most difficult part of getting and staying sober for me, by far, was dealing with the emotional void in my life that which was created when I had to stop making music. Eventually, I started my own YouTube fitness channel. If there is one thing I wish someone, such as a counselor or psychologist, or even a good friend, would have told me going into recovery, it’s that an alcoholic needs something to replace the drinking habit with, and it doesn’t matter if it’s working out, writing books, or taking on a new hobby or business venture; it just needs to be something to get his or her mind focused on something other than alcohol and which doesn’t encourage more drinking.”
Exercise and support your body
Chances are excellent that you weren’t exactly a fitness buff when you were using drugs or drinking. Now that you’re sober, it’s time to really be healthy. Starting a regular exercise routine and sticking with it will boost your energy levels, your self-confidence, and your sense of well-being. It doesn’t have to be working out in a gym; you can bike, run, join pickup games at the basketball court—whatever works for you. Better still, meeting others who stay fit and enjoy active lifestyles introduces you to a new circle of friends who can support your sobriety.
Feed your body healthful foods
Just like with exercise, your nutrition probably fell by the wayside when you were using. The result was likely a long period of sustained malnutrition, which makes it even harder for your body and mind to fight its way back from using. Help your body stay clean by eliminating junk food, and ditching unhealthy fats and sugar. Replace the junk with fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, eggs, fish, and lean meats. Drink lots of water, and keep your coffee consumption under control. Once your body starts craving healthy food, you won’t even miss the junk food, and your health, energy level, and outlook will all improve.
Accept yourself, including your past
Talking about the past can be tough, even for those who haven’t struggled with addiction. When the past has been painful, talking about it can feel impossible. But while it can be tempting to hide your addiction, don’t do it. Be open, accept yourself, including your past, and others will be more likely to do the same.
Cortland explains how important accepting yourself and your past really is: “When I was done with treatment, I found life to be far more challenging than I had ever anticipated. I felt totally alone. Getting over that loneliness meant taking actions that I was terrified of taking. I would get so nervous talking to a girl that I would become disoriented and start sweating, assuming she didn’t respect me at all or could see through me and recognize that I was just an addict. As time went on, these things became easier. I’m still terrified of sharing about myself on dates, and still feel sometimes like people look down on me for having been an addict even when they don’t know me, but I’ve adapted and learn to accept it. I love that I’m a recovering addict because it’s part of who I am and the recovery process has shaped me into a better and more productive person than I ever could have hoped.”
Tomorrow is here
Are you ready for life after addiction? It has the potential to be everything you want it to be, and a lot more, filled with little surprises you haven’t even considered yet. Remember these important best practices and you’ll have an easier time making sure you’re ready, and able to tackle whatever comes.