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The First Year of Sobriety: Addiction Recovery Stages

By Linda Whiteside

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Table of Contents

First Year of Sobriety

The number of Americans that are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction is staggering. Statistics estimate that 23 million Americans struggle with a substance abuse problem. Despite the sheer number of people directly affected by drug and alcohol addiction, only 10 percent will seek treatment. Additionally, the economic impact of drug and alcohol abuse in the United States amounts to $442 billion per year.

Despite public perception and stigma regarding addiction treatment centers, there are many quality programs and resources available to addicts. For those who choose drug treatment to address their substance abuse issues, the first year of sobriety presents formidable challenges. However, knowing the phases of recovery within the first year and what to expect can make the recovery process easier. The following article highlights those phases in further detail in the first year of sobriety!

Stages Of Addiction Recovery in The First Year of Sobriety

Medical Detoxification

The first and most important phase of recovery within the first year is medical detoxification. For those looking to quit drugs and alcohol, they experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms within a few hours after they last use their drug of choice. These withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable and may in some cases be dangerous.

For those who feel they can detox on their own, they may be making a life-threatening mistake. Many withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening on their own. However, there are existing underlying healthy issues or are abusing other drugs, withdrawal symptoms have the potential of becoming life-threatening. For this reason, it is important to seek professional treatment and undergo medical detox.

During the detox process, specially-formulated medications such as Suboxone and Vivitrol are used to help make withdrawal symptoms more tolerable. During detox, treatment staff will conduct a comprehensive medical and mental health evaluation to diagnose any underlying conditions that may impact the recovery process. Once someone is physically and psychologically stable, they will transition into intensive drug treatment—and the early recovery process can begin in earnest.

Intensive Treatment and Early Recovery

While detox does mark the beginning of the recovery process, the early recovery phase truly begins when you enter drug treatment. It is during this period where the proverbial rubber hits the road. During treatment, you will address the underlying causes of their addiction through a variety of means.

Treatment staff will put together an individualized drug treatment plan that will fit the unique and specific needs of each individual. These plans include individual and group counseling, 12-step and other support groups, life and coping skills and a variety of traditional and holistic therapy options. While many programs last 30 days in duration, that may not be enough time for an addict to address their issues and needs. That is why is it highly recommended that addicts find a facility that offers 90 day programs or even longer.

Intensive drug treatment can be effective in helping someone stay clean, however, there can be formidable obstacles during treatment. Some addicts may drop out because they feel they can get clean on their own or are simply not completely ready to accept recovery. However, many people relapse during treatment because of a co-occurring mental disorder or dual diagnosis. It is estimated that nearly 9 million people in the U.S. suffers from a dual diagnosis condition.

For people with dual diagnosis, they require more specialized care. There are an increasing number of facilities which feature psychiatric care in addition to substance abuse treatment. With this more specialized treatment, those with dual diagnosis can receive long-term mental health care after they successfully complete treatment.

Aftercare Programming and Maintaining Abstinence

Completing a drug treatment program is a major accomplishment. While those who complete treatment should celebrate that milestone, their work in recovery is far from over. It is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of those in recovery will experience relapse. In order to reduce the risk of relapse, those who complete treatment are highly encouraged to attend some form of aftercare.

While the physical cravings associated with drug use usually cease after a couple of weeks, the psychological cravings to use substances can last for months and even a couple of years after someone stops using drugs and/or alcohol. This phenomenon is referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Whether it is intensive outpatient or sober living, aftercare programs focus on relapse prevention.

To combat PAWS, aftercare programs provide programming that focus on handling the stresses of everyday life that can lead to using behaviors. Aftercare programming is flexible and works around the busy work, school and family schedules of those new in recovery. In addition to counseling and continued 12-step and other sober support group help, newly recovering addicts also have other resources at their disposal. These include guest speakers and participation in alumni groups.

Mastering Recovery

Once you are fully reintegrated back into your normal day-to-day life, the goal is to maintain and strengthen your recovery. Achieving this goal requires put into use the life and coping skills that were learned and honed in a treatment setting. Someone in recovery must have the ability to create a daily schedule that is filled with healthy activities and learn new behavior patterns.

These activities include meetings, daily exercise and meditation, going to school and work, preparing healthy meals and creating a daily sleep schedule. Additionally, those in recovery need to continue to build their social support network of family, friends and their recovering peers. Those with considerable recovery time should also be aware of other community resources that can help them stay strong in sobriety.

While those in recovery work hard in maintaining their sobriety, the risk of relapse is always present. If relapse unfortunately occurs, it can be a huge blow. For those who relapse, there are significant feelings of guilt and shame. While relapse is upsetting, it is a normal part of the recovery process. When it occurs, it is alright to feel disappointed, but the addict must “get back on the horse” and reclaim their recovery.

In many ways, relapse can be seen as a great learning tool. It is a time to pinpoint what went wrong and strengthen areas of weakness in one’s recovery plan. Whether it is attending more meetings, addressing recurring unhealthy habits, volunteering or other healthy pursuits, relapse can signal a new and stronger recovery.

Your Journey to Recovery Begins by Taking the First Step

If you are struggling with substance abuse, you may feel apprehensive in seeking treatment. Oftentimes, the biggest obstacle in finding treatment is uncertainty. While it’s true you will never fully know what will happen the recovery process, undergoing treatment at a quality drug treatment center will give you the tools and support to succeed.

With one phone call, you can speak to one of our experienced and compassionate treatment specialists. Our professional team will assist you in finding the treatment options that best fit your unique and specific needs and goals. No matter how severe your addiction, NuView Treatment Center can help you. Call us today and start working towards a future free from addiction.

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Author

Written By: Linda Whiteside
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Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson
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Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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