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Recovery is difficult.
Everyone knows that.
Not everyone understands how to make the challenges of recovery a little less intense.

Thank goodness we have Shawn Web-Young, our recovery expert. He has a list of five things he feels are very important to understand and use during recovery.

He speaks out to those currently recovering and those about to make the decision to live a sober life.

1.How to Respond to the Common Reactions of Recovery

Sometimes people who lack experience or education regarding recovery can unknowingly be judgmental or critical of those in recovery. Listed below are some common responses that you might employ when someone asks “Why are you in recovery” or “Why don’t you drink?”:

  •  I’ve discovered that I like to be me. I don’t enjoy being in an altered state of mind so I don’t drink alcohol or use drugs.
  • Alcohol and drugs interfere with my thinking and studying habits and I’ve decided school is more important to me. 
  • There is a history of drug and alcohol addiction in my family so I feel it’s best for me to abstain. 
  •  I used to drink a lot and party. I just want to do something different with my life now. 
  • I have a medical condition. I’m allergic to alcohol in a way that is similar to someone who is allergic to seafood.
  • A close friend of mine died as a result of drug and alcohol addiction. I abstain in honor of her and out of respect for my own life. The potential consequences just aren’t worth it to me.
2. The Importance of Outside Support

While most counselors and therapists will tell you that your own commitment to your personal sobriety is the most critical component for successful recovery, the support of family and friends is also extremely pertinent.  It is crucial that you realize the importance of asking for such support.  In recovery, you must become comfortable with asking for help.  Maintaining a solid recovery is often very arduous work, and accepting assistance from those who care about you is a key element.

The support that is afforded by 12-Step Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) & Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is also crucial.  This support comes from those in the fellowship of the program as well as your personal sponsor. The importance of this support can not be overstated and is a fundamental aspect of all 12-Step Programs.    

Support is also available though a 24-Hour National Helpline operated by the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).   

3. Healthy Habits for People in Recovery

There are many activities to engage in during recovery that will support your success. Some of the most effective include the following:

  • Adequate sleep
  • Balanced, nutritious meals
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Yoga
  • Regular aerobic exercise
  • 12-Step Program meeting involvement 
  • Religious service attendance, if applicable

Resume any of your hobbies or favorite activities that went by the wayside during your active addiction. Reclaiming those positive activities will give you tremendous joy and mental focus.  

4. Understanding the Patterns of Recovery

People in recovery experience many “ups and downs” as part of the normal process of recovering.  While there are no exact and predictable patterns that are applicable to all people, there are some common issues to be aware of so that you may handle them effectively if they arise.  

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS):  

Whereas physical withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol usually only last for a few days or weeks, post-acute withdrawal symptoms are of an emotional nature and can last, sporadically, for months or several years in some people.  Such symptoms may include:

    •    Mood swings
    •    Anxiety
    •    Irritability
    •    Fatigue
    •    Variable energy
    •    Low enthusiasm
    •    Variable concentration
    •    Disturbed sleep

Relapse Prevention: 

When people in recovery are unaware of PAWS, they are more susceptible to relapse because they do not anticipate these symptoms, and, as a result, they become fearful and disillusioned when they occur.  When someone expects such symptoms, they are better equipped to process them and seek assistance in order to maintain their sobriety. 

Another common pattern seems to be that some people with extended periods of sobriety begin to feel that long-term sobriety, in and of itself, will be enough to maintain that sobriety.  It is not uncommon for people with 5, 10, or 20 years of sobriety to relapse when they are not attending to their recovery program on a daily basis.    

5. Advice on When They May Begin to Feel Better/Stronger

Relief comes at different times in varying degrees for different people. Additionally, some may experience great periods of relief that are then followed by regressions into depression or periods of very strong cravings.  Such fluctuations are typical and should be expected.  In 12-Step Programs of recovery, most members indicate that the greatest relief from cravings and anxiety comes after the completion of Steps 5 & 9; however, this is also variable.      

Some people experience periods of intense relief that are so great that they let their guards down, leaving themselves susceptible to relapse.  People in long-term recovery should always be aware that their sobriety is generally more fragile than they think it is at any given time.  Recovery is a lifelong process that requires daily nurturing; with this ongoing attention, recovery can be an amazing journey full of joy and contentment.

Shawn Webb-Young     Recovery Program Coordinator