9 Helpful Suggestions to Get Through the First Days Clean and Sober
If you’re working towards putting down drugs or alcohol, are planning to attend rehab, or are just getting out of rehab, it’s important that you plan for your first days. Doing so can help you to move through withdrawal, early recovery, and any of the discomfort more comfortably. It also ensures you have the tools and the help to get through either, depending on your circumstances.
In almost every case, you should not attempt to withdraw from benzodiazepines, alcohol, and some other prescription drugs on your own. This can be dangerous as these intoxicants interfere with the central nervous system. This means you can have seizures, including very serious ones, during withdrawal. Even “less dangerous” drugs can prove dangerous or even deadly to withdraw from on your own. Dehydration, choking, heart problems and cardiac arrest, and other complications can all prove to be deadly if you don’t have help on hand. If you are on your own, consider attending a detox center to get clean.
Plan for Cravings
For most of us, early recovery is the hardest. But, believe it or not, most of us get through the worst of withdrawal is over. Most of us fail not when we feel the worst, but when we feel confident that we are in recovery. This is most often studied in people quitting cigarettes, where people move through the first 3-7 days without an issue and then relapse. That’s interesting because the withdrawal symptoms hit hardest in the first few days. This often happens because you become overconfident. You’re certain you can beat it, after all, you got through this far. But, once you start, it’s very difficult to say no again and before you know it, you have to start back at basic withdrawal.
Planning for cravings is important. You have to be aware that once the withdrawal symptoms start to abate, you will be feeling self-confident. You will be certain you can have just one more and then never again. Those feelings are a lie. Make sure you have someone on hand to help you, someone to call, or make sure that you’re in a rehab center by that time.
Visit a Self-Help Group
Self-help groups like AA, SMART, LifeRing, and others can be valuable resources as you move out of an addiction and into sobriety. While many of them want you to be fully clean and sober before you attend, many will also be more than happy to send people to your home to talk to you while you’re trying to get clean. That support, plus support as you actually get clean can make a massive difference in your ability to do so. Groups like AA offer social accountability, which is why they are affective. If you have a group of peers who will hold you accountable, not from a perspective of judgement but from a perspective of wanting you to succeed, you will feel empowered and accountable.
Practice Self Care
Self-care or “taking care of yourself” means getting enough sleep, drinking enough, ensuring you’re eating nutritious food, and ensuring that you get enough exercise. All of these things can help you to move through feeling bad from substance abuse. However, they can also help you to fight cravings, to give yourself a better basis with which to get sober, and help you build the discipline that you need to stay in recovery.
30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise boost your energy levels and your mood. It also produces endorphins and neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which help to reduce cravings. Why? Those are the same neurotransmitters behind most drug highs, which can help to offset some of the cravings but in a healthy way.
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Get Your Questions Answered
Keeping your hands and mind busy can do a great deal for keeping you on track. Sitting down to watch TV or to rest can be important sometimes. However, for the most part, you want to do things. In most cases, the more productive those things are, the better you will feel about it. However, you don’t want to push yourself until you’re tired and overwhelmed. Instead, you want to balance your mental, emotional, and physical energy. What can you do? Clean your house, do your laundry, cook a nice meal. Try to invest in your home, your day, and your life with your spare time each day, so you feel better even though you might be feeling bad.
Talk to Mental Health Professionals
If you have a therapist or a mental help professional, talk to them. It can be difficult to talk about having a substance use disorder, especially if your doctor or therapist isn’t aware already. But, they can provide valuable insight and help with moving through cravings, detox, and detox.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal can help you to clarify thoughts, to solidify motivations, and to keep yourself on track. A journal can provide some accountability. It won’t be as much as the accountability offered by a group. However, it can be considerable. Here, you should consider focusing on positive additions. Write down why you want to stay sober, what your goals are, what your progress is. Then, when you start to have cravings, you can reread those motivations and stay on track.
Involve Friend and Family
Friends and family can be your worst enemy in early recovery. However, if they are also clean and sober, likely, they are on your side and they will help. Talk to them, ask for help, and be honest. You don’t have to highlight “addiction”, but you can say “I’m struggling”. Chances are, your family and friends are very aware you have a problem. In most cases, they’re also very willing to make time to support you as you try to get clean and sober. How can they help? They can listen, they can be there for you, they can help you with cooking, they can play games with you, they can keep you entertained, they can offer love and support. Most of your family are unlikely to know what an addiction is like, but they can still be there for you. And, chances are, they desperately want to be.
Avoid Negative Self-Talk
Most of us approach ourselves like a bully. You belittle and talk down to yourself and somehow think that should make you feel better. It doesn’t. Remember, you wouldn’t treat a friend that way, don’t treat yourself that way. Hold yourself accountable but be firm and gentle. If you catch yourself belittling yourself or insulting yourself, stop. Reaffirm that you are doing something you want and you can get it right. While negative self-talk is often used to encourage the self to do better, it often achieves the opposite result. And, after all, someone else talking to you that way would make you feel bad. So does you doing it yourself.
Go to Rehab
Eventually, most of us struggle to recover on our own. If you’re suffering from a substance use disorder, you need help. A drug rehab or alcohol rehab can offer that help, with medication, behavioral therapy, counseling, and group therapy to help you move through recovery. That initial support means you get the chance to build up skills, coping mechanisms, and behaviors that will help you succeed, while in a safe environment, without access to drugs or alcohol, and without the stress or triggering surrounding of your home environment.
Quitting drugs or alcohol and getting sober can be immensely difficult. However, with good planning and with support, you can succeed. Chances are, you have people and groups willing to help. Rehab centers offer a significant amount of support if you can go to one. And, maintaining good habits will help keep you on track, from day one of putting a substance down.
Good luck with your recovery.