Early recovery is a time of confusion, gratitude, and learning. It can be overwhelming for some addicts and alcoholics, in both a good and a bad way. After years and years of toiling away in the prison of active addiction, finding and settling into a new, sober way of life can present some challenges. Some of these resulting “growing pains” come from making a series of common mistakes seen among newcomers in early recovery. Luckily for you, I’ve already made the majority, if not all, of these mistakes and am here to pass my experience, strength, and hope onto you so that you can avoid taking these unnecessary, and sometimes painful detours on your journey to recovery. It is a long road ahead, but by arming yourself with as much information and guidance as you can, you can rest assured that you can make early recovery easier rather than harder on yourself.
Not Taking Recovery Seriously
One of my major mistakes I made in early recovery was not taking my recovery seriously. While it may seem like a no-brainer, as a newcomer, it was very difficult, if not impossible for me to prioritize my life appropriately. Oftentimes when we get sober, we quickly acquire many new freedoms and physical things that we were deprived of during active addiction. These new opportunities and things in life can become quite distracting, keeping our attention off of our programs. We easily forget that the program is the only reason we’ve even gotten these things, such as a car, a job, or disposable income.
Keeping your eye on the prize is crucial in early recovery. If we are not getting better, we’re getting sicker. Relapse is always just one bad choice away, and if we’re not actively working our program by calling and maintaining a relationship with our sponsor and sober supports, working steps, going to meetings, and getting service commitments, we’re leaving ourselves open to relapse. Putting in the work from the very beginning and diligently working on ourselves will allow for a strong foundation in recovery that we can rest our very lives upon. I often found myself skipping meetings or making excuses for not calling my sponsor, and then I wondered why I remained unhappy. Taking your recovery seriously is important in early recovery, and can be the difference between life and death!
Getting into a Relationship
If only I knew then what I know now. I know I may sound like a broken record harping on this single piece of advice perpetuated by every single solitary predecessor in the program, but it’s true. Do not get into a relationship in early recovery. One more time, for extra effect: DO NOT GET INTO A RELATIONSHIP IN EARLY RECOVERY.
I, like many addicts and alcoholics before me, felt that this piece of advice applied to everyone but me. This is one of the most common mistakes to be made by newcomers. Much like the mistake above, the primary reason is that it distracts you from looking at yourself and honing your own personal program of recovery. The saying: “Two dead batteries won’t start a car” is wildly appropriate when describing relationships in early recovery. Not only do you have nothing to offer each other due to no internal work being done, but the likelihood of relapse is much higher among addicts in early recovery engaged in a relationship. Relationships and the complications that stem from them are the number one cause of relapse among addicts and alcoholics, and purposely subjecting yourself to this danger at a time of vulnerability almost always spells disaster.
Not Taking Suggestions
I, like many addicts and alcoholics, feel as though I know everything. This was especially true when I was in early recovery. I felt as if these suggestions provided by old timers and my sponsors were for people of lesser intelligence and talent than myself, and surely, I was capable of making proper decisions with my 30 days sober. WRONG.
Suggestions are just that, suggestions. You don’t have to take them. However, they are in place because they hold water. We’ve already made the mistakes so you don’t have to. Many people in early recovery don’t like to take suggestions because they are combative whenever it comes to authority, and also because many suggestions aren’t what we want to hear. But put your pride aside, and take every suggestion you’re given. They’re not going to hurt, only help you. If you don’t take them, be prepared to accept the consequences.
Not Having an Open Mind
Another common mistake made in early recovery revolves around keeping an open mind, which is characterized as “indispensable”, or absolutely necessary. By keeping a closed mind, you’re selling yourself short of everything the program has to offer. Many newcomers struggle with the spiritual concept perpetuated by the steps and the program. They feel either scared by the ideation or above it. I was the latter.
I allowed myself to feel too smart and too analytical to allow myself to be open to the idea of incorporating spirituality into my life, which is the very basis of recovery. This stagnated my progress in the program for a very long time. Many addicts and alcoholics have lived in active addiction for long, they have been cut off spiritually for years, if not their entire lives. The idea of spirituality is entirely foreign to most people in early recovery, and it can be very difficult to allow such a seismic change to come into your life. I do promise you that if you can get out of your own way and maintain an open mind about spirituality and recovery as a whole, your quality of life and recovery will instantly improve beyond your wildest dreams.
Mistakes Do Not Define You!
If you are currently in early recovery and you find yourself a repeat offender of these mistakes, fear not! A mistake is merely an opportunity to learn and grow, it is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it. By remaining ever diligent and consistent in your program of recovery, and always asking for help, you can flourish despite any adversity you may encounter. Recovery is not easy at any stage, whether you have minutes or decades in the program. The entire point of the program is to keep trying and keep growing. Recovery may be challenging, but know it is always worth it!
In Need of Detox?
It can be intimidating to know that addiction and alcoholism are always right around the corner. Sometimes getting that little push and having medical guidance can be what it takes. Relapse and active addiction/alcoholism are only as preventable as much as we value the sobriety we hold in our hands. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need detoxification, please call 800-982-5530 or visit restoredetoxcenters.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.