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Navigating Early Sobriety

Kaitlin Broderick, M.Ed., LCPC

Early sobriety from alcohol and drugs can be a difficult time. When addicts and alcoholics begin to emerge from the dark and erratic experience that led them to hit their bottom, a stretch of clean living can make them feel like they’re floating on a “pink cloud.” This “pink cloud” is described by many to be a temporary phase in which the world seems to shine brighter with joy excitement and love that once appeared far on the horizon and is now all within reach. But after some time, the music playing in the background giving you a pep to your step begins to fade. You didn’t get the job you thought you interviewed so well for, were turned down for a date or your car broke down. Suddenly life becomes bleak and you’re left confused and defeated. Thoughts of using may resurface and you might think to yourself – “Why is this happening?”

You’re not alone. If or when you fall from your pink cloud, know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. It’s called recovery because you are recovering. Your brain, body, and spirit need time to adapt to what you used to conceal with substances. So when pain resurfaces it can be a sign you are healing.

The good news is that things will get better, and there will come a time when the thought of alcohol or drugs rarely even crosses your mind.

Here are some suggestions to help navigate the sometimes tumultuous waters of early recovery:

1. Reach out and stay connected with other sober and supportive people. Being newly sober can feel very lonely and isolating initially. Oftentimes there is a feeling of “what do I do with my free time now,” or “I don’t know how to have fun without using.” You’re not the only one with those feelings. Countless others have had the same worries. Twelve-step support groups like NA and AA, as well as SMART recovery, have meetings every day of the week. There are meetings for young people, professionals, LGBTQIA and more. These programs have been around for decades and operate on the premise that one recovering person can best help and understand another recovering person.

2. Avoid “triggering” people or places. A trigger can be any reminder of the past that can cause an increased desire to drink or use. Right now, for your own sake, you may not want to visit happy hour at your favorite restaurant and avoid calling your toxic ex. Recovery doesn’t mean you alienate yourself, it means you take care of yourself.

3. Early sobriety often means getting back to the basics of self-care. Make sure to eat healthy meals at regular intervals, sleep, and exercise to get endorphins going again. Cleaning may feel like a chore at first but a cluttered home may remind you of drinking and using. Think – “Clean room, clean mind.” Meditation is also a powerful tool for quieting obsessive or negative thinking. There are plenty of beginners guided meditations that can be found on YouTube. So light some candles or incense and try a meditation in your newly cleaned apartment.

4. Relapse can happen. If it does, do not feel shame. Do not quit. Do not give up. Unfortunately, many addicts and alcoholics experience a relapse. You should address what precipitated the relapse and assess what you can do about it next time. We learn from our mistakes.

If you are currently struggling with early sobriety in your life, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.

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