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What to expect in your first weeks of recovery

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Whatever it is that causes someone to seek recovery the first thing felt should always be hope. This comes from receiving the right information about how recovery is and that it is possible.

It might even come from just making that first phone call. 

If this is backed up by the personal experience of someone or more than one person – that is hugely encouraging. Living proof is the most powerful incentive.

You relate to someone’s experience and think: “If they can do it so can I…”

What anyone can expect in the first weeks of recovery depends on many factors. Mostly it depends on what they are recovering from plus how far down the scale their addiction or other mental health illness has taken them. But there are some common elements to everyone’s early recovery.

As alcohol addiction is one of the major reasons for people seeking recovery this article will focus on recovery from alcoholism. But so much of it is also true for recovery from most mental health problems such as depression, anxiety as well as of course other addictions.

What will it be like in my first 30 days of recovery?

It will be different for everyone. As well as what the problem is it depends on such as the sensitivity of the person and perhaps how much needs to be relearned or unlearned.

But if anyone puts the effort in – with an open mind, humility, honesty and the support of experts and others going through recovery – they will experience some or all of the following positives in just the first few weeks.

This is what I recall from my first few weeks of recovery away from a life that saw me in the end drinking excessively and frequently to blackout at least a few days every week. There were other damaging behaviors too.

That was 19 years ago now and I’ve not had one drink since my first step into recovery. Life is generally excellent in a way I could never have imagined.

If I may be one of those living proofs of recovery I can say: it is undoubtedly the best thing I ever did.

Hope with a clearer head

For the first time in my life I saw people who spoke with such honesty about their addictions and behavior that I realized that could be me too. A huge incentive was that if I could get well I saw that I could also pass this on to help others – just as people were doing to help me.

I believed that there could even be a bright future. If I took it one day at a time I could know that bright future as the now.

This certainly was not overnight as there had been years of using stuff to meddle with my muddled mind. But day by day the hangovers were replaced with an increased clarity.

That was fantastic but it also meant I needed the support of people who knew what they were talking about. This was because as the clarity rose so did some of the feelings and thoughts I’d been trying to press down and numb for so long. 

This clearer head combined with the help of those who knew about recovery also meant that my thinking was more upbeat, rational and honest. In stages this all pushed away anxiety and negative thoughts.

Focus was directed to the positive and optimistic, on everything I had rather than everything I lacked. I stopped regretting the past and worrying about the future. My memory improved too so that I could actually finally remember people’s names…

More time

It seems obvious now but back in January 2002 I recall realizing that I had so much more time. The mornings were not wasted in trying to get through them; the afternoons were not spent planning the next binge; and the evening and nights were not used up with getting intoxicated.

The person who helped me the most in my early days told me it was ideal that I had more time as it meant I could give more to my recovery. Wise words.

Better sleep

Actually for many people including myself it isn’t so much better sleep as some sleep. When we crash out under the influence it is not really at all a beneficial sleep. It might feel akin to a coma, but the body and mind does not get the rest and recharge it needs as happens in proper sleep.

Also because I was no longer waking up feeling like death and because I had hope in my heart I actually opened my eyes full of excitement rather than squeezing them tightly shut in dread and despair.

Life increasingly had more meaning. I know now that it is this that leads to happiness.

Physical health improves

Another benefit of decent sleep and not trying to destroy myself was that I remember feeling increasingly energized. It was as if my soul, body and brain were saying a massive thank you for finally stopping the “suicide by installments”. 

By the end of my drinking I had what I called all-over hangovers. They were not just a headache but a pounding full body pain as if poisoned, which is probably more like it as I had been repeatedly filling myself with a multitude of toxins with no detox at all for years.

You’ll look so much better

A diet of booze, drugs, nicotine, anxiety and depression has never improved anyone’s body or complexion. So although most of all recovery is an inside job – looking at certain aspects of your life such as toxic shame, trauma and a failure of love – that have caused your mental health problems, it’s also greatly beneficial to look better.

Sunken cheeks and bad pallid skin will transform day by day in recovery. A wiry malnourished body will get back to some sort of good shape and keep improving.

So will someone who has become unhealthily overweight from such as binge drinking or overeating. If you’ve neglected personal hygiene you will start to make sure you shower again, clean your teeth and brush your hair. 

As well, recovery will give you back your self-esteem and self-love. That means that you will care more about how you look and dress becomingly, talk low and always act courteously.

Learning to love yourself

When I came into recovery lots of people said: “We’ll love you until you learn to love yourself again.” At the time I had no idea what they meant because I didn’t know how little I actually cared about myself.

But one day at a time I started to see that if I’d had self-love I’d never had acted the way I did. I did things to myself and put myself in situations that I’d have died to save a friend from enduring.

When you value yourself you’ll also value your time. This is good news for you and the world around you.

Connections with others

The love from those in recovery actually grew when I did recall how to show love to myself. That terrible sense of alienation and loneliness (even in a crowded room) will start to slip away.

When you start to be honest during such as talking therapy or from doing the Twelve Steps you realize that you are really not much different at all from anyone else. It’s one of the cunning, baffling and powerful aspects of mental health problems: they want to make you feel alone so they can keep getting at you alone and be your master. It is just like any abusive relationship.

Order resumes where chaos once reigned

By the end of my first week in recovery I could actually sit still without feeling restless, irritable and discontent after the first second. Then at some point in the next few weeks I even started to value some stillness and silence. 

Now I know this is because previously if there was silence and stillness it allowed harsh memories and bad feelings to rise up in me. Through recovery I’ve properly dealt with those, so much that for many years now I have chosen to start every day in meditation surrounded by stillness and silence.

Before though, as with many people with inner turmoil, I craved external drama as it meant I couldn’t possibly pause to look inside. So chaos reigned in my life, some of it as a direct consequence of such as drinking too much too often – but some of it because I unknowingly at the time wanted drama as another distraction from facing myself and my demons.

More money

It’s a cliche in recovery circles: “How did I ever afford it…?”

It seems obvious but perhaps for many people in some form of addiction there is going to be the extra money they are now not spending. There’s also increased earning power as we get more time, get back into our jobs or become employable if mental health problems have forced us to the state of being unemployed or unemployable.

This is true for all addictions not just the ones like drugs, drink and gambling. There will most likely be more money for someone who beats an addiction to such as shopping, food, plastic surgery or sex.

You’ll become who you’re meant to be

One of the best things about recovery is that day by day you can get closer to being who you’re meant to be. Then one day you will know that your insides match your outsides – and that is the most brilliant feeling.

When you get it you’ll know instinctively it’s how you’re meant to be. You can realize that everyone is here on this earth for an amazing reason – and you can find out your purpose. 

It more often than not is nothing like you imagined when you were in active addiction or suffering from another mental health issue. It’s always infinitely better than that.

Life grows for the better

Many people on quitting such as drink or drugs think it will be the end of their life. “What on earth will I do now?” they wonder. “Won’t my life just be boring now?”

Then on those first weeks of recovery they will often start to see how their life had narrowed to the point where it was not much if at all beyond such as their local bar or being trapped alone in their home.

Being in recovery means you will rediscover hobbies that have fallen by the wayside. You can enjoy precious moments again with family and friends, some of who you might have pushed away so you could concentrate on getting drunk or stoned.

You will discover new hobbies, can do things you always planned to do, you could travel around the world. In fact you discover you can now do anything you want and go anywhere so long as you do a few simple things to maintain your recovery.

Spiritual growth

This could be the first thing as it’s strongly connected with hope. This is because there’s a theory among many mental health experts that it’s our spirit that lets us know if we’re happy or sad.

Many people ignore this, the demands of society, family and ego often overriding any gut instinct. But many people in recovery are there because among other things they realize that while they may have climbed the ladder of success it’s actually up against the wrong building…

For many in recovery living a more spiritual life is the key to getting well. Then maintaining that spiritual growth in a disciplined way is what keeps their recovery and allows it to keep improving.

There is the realization that while untreated mental health issues get progressively worse, so too it’s true that recovery can get progressively better if some simple daily recovery tools are used.

Our expert team has years of expertise at treating all mental health problems. We have proven treatments and can give you or someone you care about the best recovery tools for a swift and long-lasting recovery.

We have purposely set up where we are to be in the ideal natural setting to aid wellbeing. Our luxury mansion by our tranquil lake is created with absolute relaxation in mind. We are also blessed with year-round warmth and sunshine.

Contact us to discover how we can help, starting today.

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David Hurst

David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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