In my seven years sober, I’ve learned that some things about recovery stay the same—and many things change. It continues to be full of surprises, rewards, and challenges. However, those are different as time goes on.
In early recovery, your brain and body are going through the first parts of healing while you learn to do everyday things sober. It’s a time focus on taking care of your body. It may also be a time where you notice positive physical changes that happen regardless of what you do. For instance, six months into being sober, my animal allergies went away. This was part of my body’s healing.
In longer term recovery, you can work on the deeper issues that led to addiction. These show up in different ways depending on how long you’ve been in recovery and what’s happening in your life.
While a lot of my work the first few years sober was in building self-awareness, recouping my self-esteem, and figuring out who I am and what I want sober, I’ve turned my attention to past traumas, the other ways addictive tendencies show up in my life, and finding deeper meaning and purpose. I’m able to do this because I’ve done that other work—because I’ve learned about myself, and found inner strength I didn’t know was there. That helps me face the ways I still struggle.
Learning to cope with difficult emotions sober is some of the greatest work in recovery, and it’s not a linear or immediate process. As the author Sarah Hepola said in this interview I did with her: “Alcohol is instant transformation; it’s ‘change how you feel now, now, now.’ Everything about recovery is slow; you slowly confront the things that have been plaguing you.”
This work is very worth it, as being able to face strong emotions helps you move through them so they don’t haunt you. It improves relationships, stress levels, and quality of life. As said in a Frontiers in Psychiatry study on what makes long-term recovery work, “Most participants explicitly expressed that expanding their emotional tolerance window was their main tool in establishing lasting, drug-free social networks, in remaining drug free, as well as in creating a meaningful life.”
Change is inevitable, especially if you’re growing. Since recovery is a process of growth and healing, it’s bound to be in continual flux. This is a good thing; it means that you’re constantly building a better life for yourself.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you find healthy ways to cope with stress, so that you can stay sober through whatever life brings. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 833.641.0572.