Early recovery can be overwhelming as you find your feet and learn to navigate newfound sobriety. It requires an entire lifestyle overhaul and sometimes it is difficult to know where to begin. You will likely experience a wide variety of emotions during this time such as excitement and hope but also maybe loss, guilt, fear, loneliness, and worry.
‘Recovery is not just a healing process but a completely new lifestyle, and finding this challenging is understandable,’ says Bryan Alzate from the United Recovery Project, who have been treating clients with dual diagnosis since their opening. If you have any doubt about your capabilities or uncertainty regarding what the future may hold, this is bound to cause at least some degree of anxiety.
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder
Did you know that mental health issues often co-occur alongside substance use disorders?
Common co-occurring mental health issues include bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and also anxiety. In addition, the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that nearly 1 in 5 US adults live with mental illness.
Looking at the data, it is clear to see that mental health issues are normal. There is no shame in having anxiety, but it is still important to stay vigilant for signs so you can get the help you need and stay on track in your recovery.
Signs and symptoms of anxiety may include:
- Feeling restless
- Feeling irritable
- Struggling to concentrate
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Sleep problems such as insomnia
Struggling to keep on top of your anxiety may negatively impact your recovery. Many people turn to substances in the first place as a way to cope with difficult emotions experienced through mental health issues. This is why it is vital to learn healthy coping mechanisms which will avoid triggering any deep-rooted desire to use once again. Keeping on top of your anxiety is key.
If you recognize signs of anxiety in yourself, it is important to talk to someone about it. You can get medications for anxiety and many people find therapy beneficial. There are also ways you can help yourself to stay in control and keep anxiety at bay.
Here are four tips for dealing with anxiety in early addiction recovery that can make the process less challenging and more enjoyable.
Stick to a Schedule
It can be easy to fall back into old ways and bad habits, especially if you don’t have clear direction. Making a schedule will ensure that you always know what you should be doing and will guide you when you feel overwhelmed and lost.
Scheduling waking up, showering, going to bed, as well as preparing and eating three square meals a day is a good idea until these things become habitual and second nature. Doing the same things every day and ensuring your basic needs are met will help you to feel grounded and in control.
Boredom can be dangerous in early recovery as it can lead to thoughts and behaviors that may encourage relapse.
You can fill your day by spending time in nature, learning new skills, taking part in arts and crafts or other activities such as playing an instrument or joining in with a sport. It might be a good idea to schedule specific activities or keep a list of options so you are prepared.
As you rebuild your life in recovery, it is important to find purpose and joy in everyday life to boost mental health and sense of self. Let your days reflect your new sober self and make the most of this chance at a fresh start.
Exercise is essential for a healthy lifestyle and has numerous benefits. For example, exercise raises your body’s natural endorphin levels and is great for improving your mental health. It has also been found to improve sleep for many people.
It is a good idea to include exercise in your daily schedule, although this does not have to be vigorous and high intensive and there are many ways to keep fit for free regardless of ability.
You could go for a gentle swim, take a walk around the block, go for a bike ride, do some gardening, or even cleaning. The possibilities are endless but what is important is keeping a healthy body and mind.
Early recovery can be an incredibly isolating experience for many reasons. Many people keep their recovery journey private and isolate themselves from friends and family due to stigma, lost trust, and fear of shame or judgment. But it is important for your mental health that you don’t isolate yourself. We humans are social creatures and need to feel a sense of community.
Socializing might seem especially daunting right now if you used to associate socializing with substance use and are worried about falling back into old ways. You may have also parted ways with all of your social groups due to their ongoing relationship with substance use.
Luckily, there are many ways to have a fulfilling and risk-free social life without jeopardizing early recovery. You could join an addiction support group which will allow you to make like-minded friends who can understand first-hand what you are going through. There are also other groups you can join made up of people in recovery that are less addiction-focused.
When you feel ready, you could look outside of recovery groups and join clubs in your community such as a book club or sports team. Volunteering can be very rewarding and is a great way of meeting new people.
There are many ways to make friends and socialize in recovery, it is all about making the right choices. Recovery is a lifestyle, not a punishment. You deserve to socialize and shouldn’t hide away from the world.
You are Not Alone
Early recovery can make for an anxious time, but it does get better if you work at it. Making small changes to your everyday life makes all the difference. You can start off slow and build from there, just as long as you keep going. You can do this.
Whatever you do, remember that you are not alone and help for mental health issues such as anxiety is available no matter what stage you are in recovery. Most treatment facilities offer outpatient care such as talking therapy or therapeutic activities. You can also lean on friends, family, and recovery support groups.