What to Expect During Your First Year of Recovery

What to Expect During Your First Year of Recovery

What To ExpectWhen you’ve made the decision to seek addiction treatment, it’s hard to imagine what your life will be like without drugs or alcohol. Although no two people are exactly alike, this article outlines some of the issues you can expect to deal with during your first year in recovery.


The term withdrawal refers to the physical symptoms you experience after drugs or alcohol leave your system.

Withdrawal symptoms depend upon the substance being abused and your length of use, but often include stomach upset, sweating, headache, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. A medical detox helps you avoid dangerous side effects and keeps you as comfortable as possible.

Acute withdrawal symptoms start to taper off as your brain chemistry adjusts to a normal level. However, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from six months to two years. Common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include difficulty with memory and concentration, decreased physical coordination, and trouble managing emotions.


Once detox has been completed, counseling is vital part of setting the foundation for long term sobriety. Counseling typically involves a mixture of individual, group, and family sessions. Your counselor may also recommend experiential therapies such as art, music, or equine therapy.

If you suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression or PTSD, your treatment plan will need to address both issues simultaneously. Often, people with mental health disorders turn to substance abuse to self-medicate the symptoms of their condition. If their mental health needs aren’t addressed, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain sobriety.

Celebrating 30 Days of Sobriety

Having 30 days of sobriety under your belt is considered a huge milestone. At this time, your withdrawal symptoms have become more manageable and your counseling sessions have provided you with the tools you need to begin a life free from the burdens of substance abuse.

Near the 30-day mark, you’ll likely be transitioning from an inpatient treatment facility to outpatient care. Your counselor will provide you with a detailed aftercare plan to make the adjustment process easier.

Creating a Strong Support System

After leaving an inpatient treatment facility, you’ll want to keep up the recovery momentum by creating a strong support system for yourself. Your facility’s aftercare resources are a good place to start, but you can also turn to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous to connect you with people who understand the challenges you’re facing.

People in the early stages of recovery often find that turning to their faith provides comfort. The new friends you meet in worship services and church activities can play a vital role in your recovery by providing encouragement and accountability, even if they have no personal experience with substance abuse.

Building Routines

During the first year of recovery, much of your time will be spent creating a routine for yourself. You’ll need to figure out how to balance work, family, social, and treatment obligations. Using a traditional day planner or a scheduling app on your phone may make it easier to keep track of appointments.

As you’re building a routine for yourself, remember to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Not giving yourself enough time to relax can create stress, which places you at risk of relapse.

Repairing Relationships

When you’re struggling with addiction, it’s easy to inadvertently hurt the ones you love. Restoring trust with friends and family will take time, so be patient with this part of the process.

A sincere apology is always a good place to start, but most people in recovery find that their loved ones respond well to seeing how hard they are working to stay sober. Keep your loved ones informed of your recovery milestones while making an effort to communicate honestly and openly.

Discovering Sober Hobbies

One of the most exciting parts of embracing a sober lifestyle is developing new hobbies. During your first year in recovery, give yourself permission to explore areas of interest—even if they put you outside of your comfort zone.

As you’re thinking about what activities appeal to you, consider aiming for a mix of solo and group hobbies. Solo hobbies such as reading, creative writing, gardening, or painting provide a way to distract yourself when cravings hit. Group activities such as joining a bowling league, volunteering at a local nonprofit, or trying out for a community theater production let you expand your social circle.

Avoiding the Dangers of Overconfidence

As you get closer to the one-year mark, it’s natural to become more confident in your sobriety. Feeling comfortable living clean and sober is an excellent sign, but overconfidence can be a risk factor for relapse.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic illness. Just as someone with diabetes needs to continually monitor their blood sugar, eat right, and exercise, you’ll need to stay on top of your treatment plan to manage your sobriety.

By Dana Hinders

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  1. Kelly Williams-O'Neill January 12, 2018 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    My two eldest son’s are homeless and addicted to heroin. I greatly appreciate the knowledge you’ve provided. Thank you for all you do. It must be daunting yet rewarding work if you save one,right.
    I would like to receive emails of article’s, if that’s something you do?
    God bless,

    • St. Joseph Institute January 15, 2018 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Hi Kelly,
      there is a link above, on the right side of the page, where you can subscribe to our updates. Please also look around the site and call us or use the contact form if you’d like to discuss treatment options.

  2. Jeremy January 17, 2018 at 3:46 am - Reply

    I am a recovering addict I have been clean and sober for almost three years Feb,8 2018 will be 3 Years. I still have cravings at times to want to just go get high there really are so many triggers out in the world I used Oxycontin heroin, crack and xanex for 10 Years I will be 37 August 4th I tried to quit so many times but I realized everytime I tried to quit b4 it was always for someone else wanting me to and it never happened one thing that’s 100 true is an addict isn’t gonna quit until they there self is 100% committed to wanting to quit for them self!! And going back to the same friends and hangouts u had when u were on drugs u won’t quit either u pretty much have to make a 100% lifestyle change I had to move away from a town I was born and raised in Beckley WV and move 3 hours away to Morgantown WV where I had my mother and older brother who is 38 and younger brother who is 32 as my support system cause all my friends and what family I had left in Beckley were all the people I used with and when I would try to quit b4 I Would tell them I am quitting keep the stuff away from me don’t offer it to me just don’t have it around me at all and evertime they were always the ones saying oh just do it this one time have fun it’s the weekend so I found out they were not my true friends at all cause if they were they would have respected my wishes and kept it away from me and just supported my Decision so anyone I can help or give advice to that is wanting to quit the lifestyle I would love to help or if u just need someone to talk to u can message me anytime look me up on Facebook Jeremy Williams in morgantown WV

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