You had heard it all before. While still in active addiction, well-meaning friends and family members tried to assure you that your life would be immensely better if you would just get some help. They promised you repeatedly that if you got sober, and stayed that way, you would enjoy a fulfilling and prosperous life. Blah blah blah. You most likely ignored all this noise, still beholden to your substance of choice. You weren’t ready to hear their hopeful message yet.
At some point along the bottoming out process, however, you begin to reconsider their words of wisdom. They began to sound appealing. So, you make the important decision to act on your loved ones’ advice and seek out professional treatment for the addiction.
Lo and behold, now a year into recovery, you can see that they were right all along. Hitting that mark—365 days clean and sober—allows you the gift of being able to reflect on the benefits of recovery from addiction or chemical dependence. And huge benefits they are!
How a Year of Sobriety Can Change One’s Life
When mired in the deep pic of active addiction, it is hard to even remember what normal looked like. That state of being a fully functioning, healthy human being seemed like it belonged to another lifetime. It isn’t until you take the leap and get into recovery that you can actually begin to see glimpses of hope. Sticking it out for a year offers an array of positive changes, including:
- Physical health. After a year of sobriety there will be a noticeable change in your physical appearance and general health. If the substance of abuse was alcohol, you will likely have lost weight. Nutritional deficiencies are a thing of the past. You feel stronger physically, and feel good overall.
- Mental wellness. Drugs and alcohol do significant damage to mental health and cognitive functioning. Once sober for a year, you will be experiencing clear thinking, better memory function, and an improved ability to focus and make decisions. Feelings of depression and anxiety, which may take a few months to subside, should be resolved by the one-year mark.
- While in the grip of addiction, many lose their sense of ambition. There is little energy for actually accomplishing anything. Productivity on the job suffers, and family obligations are neglected. In recovery, you feel a renewed passion toward accomplishing goals and being productive in all aspects of life. With a clear mind and a healthy body, new projects beckon.
- New friendships. One of the first issues to address following rehab is the company we keep. Hanging out with people who are a detriment to our recovery, and who are unsupportive of our sober lifestyle, will only sabotage the future. Vetting out the users and replacing them with new sober friends will help ensure you have a social support system that is healthy.
- Renewed purpose. After a year of sobriety, many experience deep feelings of gratitude. They seek to discover a new purpose for their lives, which may involve volunteering or charitable activities. They might decide to write a book or go back to school. Sobriety stokes the flames of renewed passion for living a purposeful life.
- Self-confidence. With a year of sobriety under the belt, it is likely you will feel a surge of self-confidence. Why? Because, first of all, you survived a deadly disease, and also because you have accomplished a major feat. Breaking free from addiction unleashes a new sense of autonomy and inner strength. Suddenly you are no longer beholden to the substance, but are building yourself up day by day.
- Financial stability. In active addiction, many lose their jobs or see their careers derailed. The cost of treatment may have also become burdensome. There may have been legal costs due to a DUI or other legal matters related to the addiction. A year after discharge from rehab, you may find yourself more financially stable. Maybe there has been a positive career move or a promotion. Debts are being paid off and savings accounts may be slowly growing.
- The most significant change someone with a year of sobriety will experience is a resurgence of hope. During addiction, most feel hopeless and powerless as they watch their lives implode. In recovery, each passing day makes you stronger, more confident, and much more hopeful about the future that lies ahead.
The Role that Aftercare Plays in the First Year of Recovery
It can be very tempting to walk away from rehab believing you have a grip on things. The structured rehab environment, however, allows for few surprises or triggers, providing a safe space that allows you to focus on recovery. Not so when you transition back to regular life. Suddenly, all the stressors that may have been contributing to the need to self-medicate are again at your doorstep. Without an aftercare plan, recovery will be challenged—particularly during that first vulnerable year.
To safeguard recovery, it is essential that there is a solid aftercare plan in place to follow for at least six months… the longer the better. These are the services or actions that offer protection against relapse, such as:
- Sober living. When the home environment is unsupportive of your recovery, it can derail your efforts in no time. A sober living home environment is an excellent option following rehab addiction facilities, providing a substance-free living space that also provides a deterrent to relapse through regular testing.
- Weekly individual therapy and/or group counseling gives you another source of social support in early recovery. Therapy offers guidance when recovery is at risk, helping you work through emotional issues or stressors of all types. Group sessions offer peer support, as participants can share openly about any struggles or triumphs they are experiencing in recovery.
- Finding a recovery community is another key aftercare element. These groups provide a supportive space to enjoy fellowship while also gaining a sponsor or even finding opportunities to help others in recovery.
Making it through an entire year of living a sober, healthy lifestyle will pay off with a wide array of rewards. If you have achieved a year in recovery, then congratulations on your new amazing life.
About the Author
Ken Seeley is an internationally acclaimed interventionist, having years of experience in this field. Certified as a Board Registered Interventionist-Level 2, Seeley has worked full-time in the business of recovery and intervention since 1989. He is a regular contributor to CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and ABC on the topics of addiction and intervention. He was one of three featured interventionists on the Emmy Award winning television series, Intervention, on A&E. He is also the author of “Face It and Fix It,” about overcoming the denial that leads to common addictions while bringing guidance to those struggling with addiction. Ken Seeley is the founder and C.E.O. of Ken Seeley Communities, a full spectrum addiction recovery program located in Palm Springs, California.
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The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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