What is “Early Recovery?”

There are many things that contribute to a successful first year of sobriety. This first year is often referred to as “early recovery.” General “recovery” usually refers to as the entirety of someone’s life in which sobriety is one of the central focuses. Early recovery has its own designation because it’s a particularly important and vulnerable stage of your journey in recovery.

From the moment you step foot outside of your residential treatment center until the first two to three years can be considered “early recovery.” But typically, early recovery refers to the first six months or first year of the process. If you’re in this stage, you’re experiencing a total life transformation of your habits, worldview, perspective of yourself, and more.

The Early Risks of Relapse

But unfortunately, it can be difficult to even make it to that first-year mark. Relapse rates are high for the first year of recovery. The early recovery period receives greater attention because it can determine the years of recovery journey ahead. In many ways, it’s a crossroads moment.

Many of the choices you make during early recovery are changes that can last a lifetime. And even if there’s a relapse following by another period of recovery, if this pattern lasts for more than a few cycles, it’s likely to end in exhaustion and burn out.

If a person can understand and internalize the importance of early recovery, they’ll find that later recovery stages aren’t like early recovery. Some things get easier; and some things get better. But in order for things to get smoother, every person has to face the challenges of early recovery and their first year of sobriety.

The following four tips can be taken as starting resources for you to help make it through your first year of recovery from substance abuse and addiction. For more helpful resources at any stage of your recovery journey, reach out to a professional at Pinnacle Recovery today.

#1: Stay Connected with Your Support Network

You’ve probably heard how important it is to “stay connected,” “get a sponsor,” or “join a support group.” But these recommendations aren’t empty suggestions—they’re based on the hard data of studies of those recovering from substance abuse.

For instance, a study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol describes what’s called the “psychosocial domains” that impact propensity towards relapse. These domains include coping skills, social networks, and the ability to assess potentially risky situations. In the same way the social elements of your life affected your substance abuse and addiction, they also impact your recovery.

Staying connected means more than simply knowing what steps you need to take. Every person needs to actually take those steps, putting one put in front of the other. Active work with a sponsor, for example, depends on consistency and trust. Without these key components, maintaining your recovery will be unnecessarily difficult.

#2: Stay Active in Service Contexts

As much it’s a benefit to stay connected your sponsors and mentors, it’s essential to find outlets to return the favor and service. It could be as informal as a meeting or gathering you host on a regular basis, or something more organized like a volunteer position.

Whatever it is, it’s important that it’s an activity that you enjoy. Doing good for a group, whether it’s as simple as making coffee and greeting newcomers, or sacrificing a few Saturday mornings to help out another struggling community can remind you of where you came from.

In the case of a home group, it helps you to develop friendly relationships with like-minded sober people. Many individuals recovering from substance abuse and addiction developed a variety of unhealthy relationships during the course of their addiction cycle. So when you give yourself an opportunity to cultivate new kinds of healthy relationships, you open a new chapter of your life and welcome the changes that come with it.

#3: Incorporate a Meditation or Contemplative Practice

As you’ve learned in your residential treatment program, routine is key to your early recovery journey. Naturally, then, a morning routine is important in order to set aside time for yourself and set the tone for the day. Many people in recovery utilize this time to develop a prayer, meditation, or contemplative practice.  

There are many studies that point to the benefits of spiritual meditation having a positive impact on addiction recovery. In addition to routine building, mindfulness meditations are proven to help mental health. They can reduce anxiety, depression, and help give you the stability you need during early recovery.

Although it’s easy to feel intimidated, a simple 15 minute mindfulness meditation is a great start. It can enable you to approach situations more calmly and rationally. Depending on what type of practice, your spiritual journey can also lead to building connection to a healthy community.

#4: Explore New Types of Sober Activities

When you go through a life change like substance abuse treatment, it can feel strange to reemerge. You may feel like you’re in a new world and feel out of place. New experiences that don’t include alcohol or other substances can help you find your place again.

While stable routines are important for early recovery, so are novel experiences—especially fun ones! Don’t be afraid to go outside of your normal “box” and try new things. Trampoline dodgeball, escape rooms, Saturday softball club, or groups that hike together are all great starts.

Cultivating these new interests will spur you on towards forming new relationships. These can all ultimately support you in your recovery. You’ll be surprised at how many people are like you in the world. And moreover, how many of them are eager for the same connections that you need.

Although it can seem daunting to be in early recovery, you’re not alone. Reach out and connect with those who you know will be a healthy support. This way, you’re forming long-lasting relationships and promoting your sobriety at the same time.