What Can You Expect the First Year Sober?

Addiction recovery is an ongoing process. Sober living houses are filled with people who are at all stages of the recovery journey. Many people remain at sober living houses for a year, or even sometimes longer, offering support to new residents who are struggling in early sobriety. For those just entering a sober living home, it is common to ask, “What do the stages of recovery look like?” How is life different after 30 days of sobriety, or after 6 months of sobriety? While experiences differ widely from person to person, the progression is similar for many people. What can you expect the first year sober? Read on for some insight.

First Year Sober

What to Expect

Explore your Treatment and Support Options

One of the most important things you can do in the first 30 days of your sobriety journey is to build what’s called a “sobriety toolkit.” This may include evidence-based treatment options like medication to stop drinking and specialized alcohol therapy. It may also mean attending alcohol support groups, joining online communities, exploring books and sobriety podcasts, or getting involved with your local sobriety community. There are many people navigating these same challenges of the first year sober and beyond, and you don’t have to do it alone. There are lots of resources out there, and experts recommend engaging with as many tools as possible for the greatest chance of success.

Finding New Routines

Creating a daily schedule during your first days away from rehab is essential. Many people experiencing lasting sobriety have used a daily schedule to propel them forward and avoid the pitfalls that lead to relapse. By having a daily schedule, recovering addicts can give purpose to their time and avoid the bad decision-making that comes with boredom (due to excessive free time) or stress (due to responsibilities and a lack of daily organization).

New Relationships

Once you’re into your first year sober, t’s normal to make new friendships. Many recovering addicts come from friend groups built on substance abuse. A common aspect of recovery is ending toxic relationships and getting away from people who do not support a sober lifestyle. Spending extended time with drug users who promote substance abuse is not conducive to a sober lifestyle and can easily lead to relapse.

Sober relationships can be a great asset to recovery. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who prioritize sober living can help an addict stay on the right path and avoid relapse. It can also help introduce new hobbies and activities that help the addict realize they can live a full life without using drugs. Sober relationships will also help with navigating sobriety’s emotional ups and downs. For some, the cravings and memories never go away, but having friends who are experiencing similar struggles can help the addict feel less alone.

Expect Emotional Ups and Downs

Many people, especially those in the first round of sobriety, experience the pink cloud phenomenon. This is best described as a euphoric feeling of happiness about being sober after an unhealthy life of substance abuse. The problem is that this feeling of overconfidence can easily fade. You’ll have good and bad days, and that’s totally normal.

Understand Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Even long after you’ve completed detox, your body may still be recovering. Long-term addiction can cause your brain chemistry to need time to rebalance after drug and alcohol abuse. As this happens, you may experience different physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Not everybody experiences PAWS, but common symptoms include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • low energy
  • difficulty concentrating

These long-term withdrawal symptoms will eventually go away. However, you may need help coping with them. Be sure to talk with your sponsor or counselor about the best management strategies.

Mistakes to Avoid During Your Fiest Year Sober 

Pink Cloud Syndrome in Early Recovery

During the first year sober, individuals sometimes feel euphoric and extremely optimistic, an emotional phenomenon that is often referred to as being on a “pink cloud.” People who experience pink clouds may feel like their lives are perfect now that they’ve stopped abusing substances. They may even feel invulnerable — which can be dangerous.

The pink cloud syndrome feels good, of course, but it doesn’t always reflect reality. In most cases, people in early recovery often have a lot of cleaning up to do: learning new skills, repairing relationships, finding a job, and finding new ways of handling conflict or loneliness. It is true that sobriety likely has improved your life a lot, but it is likely not perfect. Getting honest feedback from your sober living home peers can help people on a pink cloud face the facts.

Dont Isolate Yourself During Your First Year Sober 

Sure, maybe you don’t want to go to raging parties, and that is understandable.  But that doesn’t mean you should never be social or avoid spending time with friends. Being alone can be just as dangerous as being at a huge party with drinking. Isolating yourself can lead to feelings like loneliness and self-pity which can result in deciding to drink to alleviate those feelings.

Why the First Year is the Hardest and How to Make it Easier 

Let’s be clear, sobriety is never going to be easy all of the time, but the beginning is usually the hardest. Of course, every situation is different, and depending on what you are going through in life, sobriety can be tough or simple. But what makes the first year different from the rest and how can you not only survive it… but thrive in it?

Keep it Simple

Every recovering addict will find that adapting to the rhythms of life takes patience, hard work, and persistence. It’s a good idea to keep it simple because the adjustment to true sober living takes time. It’s like a marathon; you have to endure. Luckily, there’s plenty of stories of people who have successfully navigated that time. Being a part of a regular 12-step group can make a big difference during the first year of recovery. Seeing the same group of people can provide a sense of stability. Maintaining a good relationship with a sponsor during the first year is also fundamental.

Use Your Tools Learned Throughout Your First Year Sober 

Moving, or accepting a job with very different hours, or any other big life change can be jarring to begin with. It’s a particular challenge you’re learning how to stay sober for a year. During that first year of recovery, you don’t want to separate yourself from a healthy community. Remember, community is key to recovery. Having a stable support system is essential for any newly sober person. Using concrete tools like journals or planners can also be helpful. They’ll help you track and measure progress. If there’s ever a time when it’s useful to structure your time and reflect on yourself, that first year of recovery is it. Remember, you have plenty of new tools and coping skills at your disposal. 

The Best Part of the First Year Sober

Despite the challenges, staying sober is definitely worth it. The benefits of sobriety can include the following:

  • Improved physical health: You will have more energy, sleep better, and lose weight.
  • Improved mental health: You will feel less anxious and depressed.
  • Improved relationships: Your relationships with your loved ones will improve.
  • Improved productivity: You will be more productive at work and at home.

If you are coming up to being one year sober, you should be extremely proud of yourself. Overcoming addictions is never easy and takes a lot of strength.

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