Treating Early Recovery Anxiety

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For many individuals in recovery, staying on the sober path during early recovery may be more difficult than taking that first step into a residential treatment center.

Graduating from a recovery program makes any ex-addict feel ecstatic and hopeful. It is a wonderful day when you realize you have been sober for several months, learned how to productively confront your deepest fears, and understand that addiction is a medical disease, not a choice.

Transitioning from residential treatment to your previous home or a halfway house should be a happy experience, right? While the first few days outside a residential treatment center are new and exciting, it is natural and common for people in recovery to start feeling anxious about leaving such a structured, supportive environment as a residential treatment center.

Why Does Early Recovery Cause Anxiety?

The root cause of all anxiety is worrying about something that may or may not happen. Anxiety differs from fear because fear means the threat is genuine. For example, you feel anxiety over taking a final exam because you need at least a B+ to maintain a 3.8 GPA in college. When you get an A on the exam, your anxiety vanishes. However, fearing and deliberately avoiding something or someone is a survival instinct. Fear stops you from being physically harmed by something that you know without a doubt is a threat to your well-being.

Addicts in recovery say that sobriety outside an inpatient treatment center is like being naked in front of the world–exposed, vulnerable, and defenseless. For many, it will be the first time they must manage their lives without turning to drugs or alcohol to escape the psychological pain of past traumas.

Living in a structured environment for 60 or 90 days, and then finding yourself living in a totally unstructured environment means having chunks of “empty” time on your hands. Residential treatment center programs fill the person’s time with counseling sessions, group sessions, addiction education classes, and holistic therapies. When you are not sleeping or eating, your free time is occupied with events intended to treat your addiction.

5 Techniques for Managing Early Recovery Anxiety

Filling your time with sober living activities is a great way to stop worry and anxiety from overwhelming you during your early days of recovery. Creating a routine and sticking to that routine also helps restore that sense of purpose and stability you experienced while at a residential treatment center.

Try new things. If you have never gone fishing, go fishing. If you have never gone kayaking, go kayaking. If you have never cooked a meal from scratch, grab a cookbook and start cooking!

Get physical. Spend at least 30 minutes every day walking, jogging, swimming, riding a bicycle, exercising at home, painting your kitchen, gardening–whatever physical activities you enjoy the most.

Join a support group. Seek new, sober friends who understand and empathize with what you are feeling.

Learn about mindful meditation and practice focusing on the present, not the past or the future.

Call your counselor when anxiety becomes overwhelming. If you feel like you may relapse, don’t hesitate to call aftercare support services to speak to a counselor. They can help talk you through whatever triggered the urge to use again.

Contact Baystate Recovery Center for more information about treating early recovery anxiety or to find out about our addiction treatment services.

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