The Importance of Struggling Your First Year Sober
Everything worthwhile requires effort. You can’t build a home, a career, or a meaningful relationship without putting in some hard work. Sobriety is in the same category. Diligence can help ensure that your road to recovery doesn’t get derailed. You may struggle in your first year of sober living, but the payoff is sublime.
Before you bristle at our blunt terminology, let’s be clear: struggle does not need to be synonymous with misery. For example, a great workout is a struggle, but it gets easier over time and rewards you with a healthy physique. The same could be said of sobriety. By working through the difficulties of early recovery, you will truly earn your next steps down the path to a better life. You can be stronger, more lucid, and ready to tackle a wide array of challenges. After all, you have built a foundation of earnest growth, and now it’s time to expand on your achievements.
Sobriety: By the Numbers
The first year is crucial to successful sobriety. The relapse rate for recovering individuals in the first 12 months is approximately 67%, but that number falls to less than 50% for people who achieve one year sober. But there is no magic bullet. You do not cross some invisible line after the 365-day mark that protects you from the temptations and pitfalls of relapse.
It’s all about endurance.
If you can prove to yourself that you can make it a year, then why not two years? Or five years? Or several decades? Recovery has no expiration date, but rather it unfolds and evolves along with your lifestyle. If you dig into the first year of sobriety, you are forging a useful structure upon which to craft your ensuing recovery.
Your Journey Is Yours Alone
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to sobriety. Every obstacle you encounter forces you to react and adapt in your unique way. For example, if your coworkers routinely hold informal meetings at a bar, this could present a set of awkward or uncomfortable circumstances. You may wish to confront these issues directly, requesting a different venue for future gatherings, or you may be able to ignore your surroundings and focus on the business at hand rather than the alcoholic beverages surrounding you.
The solution you choose helps define your individual brand of sobriety. You are establishing new patterns of behavior with every decision you make. That’s not easy, but the struggle will result in a well-articulated subset of values upon which you can draw in the future. The next time you encounter a similar situation, you can recall how you triumphed in the past and move forward that much more confidently.
Distraction Is a Short-Term Strategy
Addiction can consume your life. You may have spent every waking hour indulging in – or chasing after – the substance of your choice, but now you have cleared your calendar for more productive pursuits. How will you fill your time?
Many recovering individuals embrace exercise or spirituality or craftsmanship as their newfound focus. These are all great outlets, but they must come from an honest place. If you pick up a paintbrush and start drawing without any real passion for art, then it might just be a distraction. Once you get tired or bored of painting, you may feel defeated, as if you slipped back to square one.
Don’t get bogged down in useless distractions. Ask yourself what you want to do with your time and go for it!
Speaking of distractions, luxury is the ultimate time-waster. Sure, it feels great to get pampered at a spa every once in a while, but can you live that way every single day? First of all, the high-life costs a considerable amount of money. Secondly, it can also become tedious. Thirdly, what happens when the Jacuzzi bubbles pop and fizzle?
Your sobriety should be founded on real, tangible benchmarks. Luxury rehab centers lure you in with the bells and whistles, but they may leave you empty, both financially and emotionally. Avoid the inevitable disappointment of upscale recovery facilities by spending your first year of sobriety investing in yourself.
The Pink Clouds Have Cleared
Recovery is its own reward. Many people in sobriety even report a “pink cloud” feeling of elation in the early stages of treatment. When this euphoria fades, it can lead to a bit of a crash. Try not to depend on short-term fluctuations in mood, but instead set your sights on the long-term benefits over the horizon.
Giving yourself the goal of achieving one year sober may sound like an artificial finish line, and it is in many ways. But at least it acclimates your mind beyond the immediate “pink cloud” effect. One year is a nice round number, and it paves a path toward an enduring recovery.
Every Easy Street Has a Dead End
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When you first declare that you are ditching substance use, you may have dozens of loved ones there to cheer you on. Congrats! But please be aware: the celebration will fade. You have a long way to go to achieve true sobriety, and you won’t be encouraged every day by your friends and family.
This is your quest. Sometimes, you must embark upon it all by yourself.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t meet new friends along the way. In fact, relying on others who have struggled through the first year of sobriety is a great way to amplify your support system. Reach out to our recovery community and learn how you can immerse yourself in rewarding, robust sobriety. Year one is just the beginning!
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.