As you begin your new life in recovery, there are a couple things that are certain: You will no longer be using drugs and alcohol, and it won’t always be easy. But there are a lot of surprises that you will encounter along the way as well. Here are just a few things you may not have expected to experience but are pretty much unavoidable in recovery:
1. You cannot smoke weed. For those whose drug of choice was something other than marijuana, it is often asked in early recovery if it is okay to smoke marijuana. The answer is “no.” Total abstinence is key, and this even means that taking medications for illness is something to approach with caution. Why? No matter what your substance of choice, use of any mind-altering drug or alcohol can trigger cravings to return to active drug use. In fact, because is addiction is a disorder that manifests in many different ways and not just through substance abuse, there are many activities that could trigger cravings as well. In treatment, you will learn to identify your particular triggers and manage the behaviors that are associated with addiction.
2. It’s not just about abstinence. You may have come to addiction treatment due to problems caused by an inability to manage drug and alcohol use, but recovery from addiction is a layered issue that manifests in a number of different ways. You will find that pretty much all the choices you make in life from how and where you sleep to what you eat and how you spend your downtime all deeply impact your recovery. Recovery is about far more than simply not using drugs or drinking; it is about learning how to live the most authentic version of your life every day.
3. Honesty is important. Keeping secrets, hiding shame, or otherwise pretending to be someone or something you’re not all contribute to the urge to drink and get high. Drug and alcohol use may have provided a shroud in active addiction, but in recovery, honesty is essential. It can be painful to shed those layers that may have buffered you from the world for so long. But when you do, you will find that you feel much lighter and freer.
4. All your friends do not have to be sober. At first, it is safe to spend your time only with other people who are in recovery. You know that they understand where you are coming from and what you are going through and will be more forgiving of some of the unavoidable awkwardness that comes with early recovery. You will soon find, however, that not everyone in recovery is good company and that some people who are not actively sober may end up being the most fun, interesting, and inspiring people in your life. You do not have to limit yourself to the recovery world when it comes to friendship, but it’s a good place to start building your support network.
5. You can be a good friend to other people. This may sound simplistic, but many people in active addiction have only been told all the ways that they failed in their relationships – for years. It can be an incredible moment when you realize that you are not the person you once were and that you can be a positive part of other people’s lives.
6. Showing up is pretty much everything. Going to 12-Step meetings even when they begin to feel monotonous and irritating, going to your doctors’ appointments to continue mental health treatment even when it feels like it’s not working, going to therapy and holistic treatments – just continuing to show up to these things even when your heart isn’t in it is a huge part of building a strong foundation for yourself in recovery.
7. Sobriety is not boring. By choosing to commit to recovery, you are not choosing to sit on the couch and watch TV for the rest of your life in order to avoid coming into contact with drugs or alcohol or any stressful situations that could cause you to relapse. Your recovery can be everything and anything you make of it. You can begin a new career, travel, start your own business, accomplish something in your art or hobby that you’ve always wanted to do, or just explore your options and spend time with your family. Without the use of drugs and alcohol, you will have the clarity of mind, emotional balance, and finances to do pretty much anything that comes your way, and that is not boring at all.
What are your expectations of your life in recovery? What did you think would happen when you stopped drinking and getting high, and how have you been surprised?