Five Hard Truths About Early Recovery

Recovery is a transformational process.  From repairing wounded relationships to gaining confidence and self-esteem, the gifts of recovery can seem never-ending.  However, those gifts don’t arrive at our doorstep just because we made the decision to enter recovery; we have to work for them.  Countless hours of hard work and a steadfast dedication to self-growth are necessary to bring those rewards to life.

Maintaining our commitment to recovery can be a challenge and there will be days things start to feel hard.  The truth is that recovery isn’t easy.  We often shy away from discussing some of the difficult truths about early recovery for fear of inciting a relapse, but it is necessary to acknowledge that all your days in recovery won’t be perfect.  Just remember, even though you’ll face challenges in early recovery, you’re not alone.   Here are a few things to look out for as you navigate five hard truths in early recovery:

Change is Uncomfortable

Logically, we all know change is uncomfortable but we still probably hold out hope that this old adage won’t apply to us.  Making the decision to completely change your life and enter recovery is admirable, but as you embark on your journey you may find yourself experiencing more emotional or physical discomfort than you anticipated.  Depending on the substances you were using, you may experience physical withdrawal symptoms that require medical care.  Additionally, many people experience psychological withdrawal upon discontinuation of use.  Psychological withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

On top of managing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, there are other factors that can make early recovery more complex.  Leaving behind old friends, facing financial or legal issues, and managing feelings of guilt or shame all contribute to the feelings of discomfort early on.

While you may have expected the withdrawal symptoms or made peace with making significant lifestyle changes, you might not have been prepared for the unknown of early recovery.    For possibly the first time ever, you are experiencing the world around you in a totally new way.   In active use, we know what to expect.  When we enter recovery we’re not always sure what’s coming next, which can be really scary.

Rather than fight the discomfort of the five hard truths in early recovery, accept that this discomfort is part of the process.  Remind yourself that the changes you’re experiencing, and all the emotions that come up because of them, are helping you to build a new life free from the chaos of addiction.  Rely on your support system when you need a little extra help getting through some of those particularly uncomfortable moments and remember that you aren’t alone.

Recovery is a Process

This is a particularly hard truth for some people to face in five hard truths about early recovery.  Recovery isn’t quick – it’s a process.  There is no standardized timeline and each individual’s process is unique.   Attending treatment for a certain length of time, going to a specified amount of recovery meetings per week, or just staying abstinent from substances will not automatically guarantee you the rewards of recovery.  Recovery is a process of self-development and internal growth that requires consistent effort.  

Recovery has no finish line and is not a destination to be reached. Instead, it is a life-long commitment to altering behaviors and thought patterns to ultimately live fulfilling lives, free of the turmoil and chaos associated with active substance use.  Rather than focusing on a timeline or obsessing over how long it’s taking you to reach your goals, try to embrace the journey and find gratitude for the new discoveries and experiences recovery is affording you.

Watch out for Unrealistic Expectations

In recovery from a substance use disorder, it can be easy to get wrapped up in how things “should” look or how you “should” feel.  Similarly, we may enter recovery with an expectation that our loved ones will automatically trust us again or that just discontinuing use will be enough to get our lives back on track.  Maintaining unrealistic expectations sets us up for disappointment, failure, and potentially experience a relapse.

Learning to identify and challenge our unrealistic expectations is a crucial part of early recovery.  Discuss your expectations with your support network, treatment provider, or other trusted people in your life. Make an effort to be open-minded to their feedback.  Understand that the recovery process will not be flawless and you will encounter bumps along the way.

Boredom

Let’s face it, early recovery can feel boring. Especially when compared to the life we were living while actively using substances.  Many of us are unsure of our likes or dislikes when we first enter recovery.  Our sense of identity was intertwined with our disorder for a long time.  While feelings of boredom are normal, it is imperative that you learn to fill your time with activities that align with your recovery goals.

Make time to develop new hobbies, learn about your interests, and don’t be afraid to try something new.  Work on finding things to fill your time that will support your new lifestyle.  Having plenty to do, especially things that fill you with a sense of purpose, will help bolster your sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

There Is No Magic Fix

Many people enter a treatment facility thinking that a professional will “fix” them.  Some might even be under the impression that they can be “cured” of their substance use disorder.  In reality, treatment and recovery is the beginning of a life-long journey.    Recovery will not magically repair relationships, erase legal charges, or get you your job back.  Consequences related to your substance use will still be there when you leave treatment, and it will take time and effort to resolve them.  In Many people enter a treatment facility thinking that a professional will “fix” them.  Some might even be under the impression that they can be “cured” of their substance use disorder.  In reality, treatment and recovery is the beginning of a life-long journey.    Recovery will not magically repair relationships, erase legal charges, or get you your job back.  Consequences related to your substance use will still be there when you leave treatment, and it will take time and effort to resolve them.  In five hard truths about early recovery, there are no short-cut’s or quick fixes.

The Most Important Truth…

Recovery is possible and it does get better!  It can be hard to see the road ahead when we’re struggling.  When you begin to face obstacles in early recovery, ty not to lose sight of what you are working towards:  recovery or getting back what was lost.   Latch onto the moments of joy, the deep belly laughs, and every “win” you experience along the way.  No matter what obstacles you will face along the way, recovery will always be worth fighting for. 

If you are ready to begin your journey in recovery, Greenbriar Treatment Center is here to help.  With the right guidance, support, and treatment, you can accomplish all of your recovery goals.  Contact us today to learn how we can help.