Recovery is exciting and challenging, and maybe even a little scary at first. You may feel it is any of these things and more at any given time. One thing is for sure…it’s interesting. 

If you have spent years of your life using drugs or alcohol and have struggled with addiction and its consequences, recovery can sometimes prove to be a rough road, especially at the beginning. It’s a road that is well-traveled, though, and there are plenty of amazing people who have paved the way for you. The following are seven pieces of advice for people new to recovery:

Stay Away From People Who Use

This is one of the most effective ways to ensure your continued sobriety — and it’s often one of the most difficult. It sometimes even means staying away from family and loved ones or ending a romantic relationship. This isn’t easy, but it keeps you safe. Relapse often occurs when people in recovery spend time with people who are actively using.

At the very least, insist that friends and family not use alcohol or drugs in your presence.

Don’t Put Too Much Pressure On Yourself

When you first get sober, it’s important to fully appreciate the deep level of change you are going through. Your body, your brain and your heart are all adjusting, healing and changing each day that you are sober. 

These changes take energy and getting used to. You may be tempted to “make up for lost time” and start trying to take on the world. This is a mistake. Take things slow. Take care of you.

Don’t Replace Your Addiction With More Bad Habits

Habits are a tricky thing. When you lose one habit, you’ll tend to gain another. Something has to take the place of what was lost. Knowing this ahead of time can prepare you. 

Bad habits may include overeating (especially sugary foods), spending too much money, engaging in unhealthy relationships, watching too much television, etc. It’s not uncommon for newly recovering people to end up depressed, in bad relationships and feeling unhealthy. This can be avoided, though, by developing healthy habits right away.

Get Some Exercise

It’s an ideal habit to add exercise early in your addiction recovery. It’s okay to take it slow, but getting up and moving your body every single day will not only help you feel better physically, but it can also help stave off depression, which is not uncommon in early recovery. 

Understand That Substances Were Not Your Only Problem

This often comes as a shock to people once they get sober. It’s normal to assume that once the alcohol and drugs are out of the picture, all your problems will go away. Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily true.

There are often underlying issues that were present before the substances even became a problem. And, years of using probably created more. These issues don’t just magically fade away when the drugs and alcohol wear off.

Understanding and accepting this will help your early recovery go more smoothly.

Get Outside Help If You Need It

At least half, if not more, of people who struggle with addiction, are also struggling with other issues. Trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. If you had bad experiences during your addiction, which is likely, you are probably suffering from trauma. You also may be suffering from crippling guilt and shame. 

These things can keep you from fully enjoying your new life, and can also lead to relapse if they aren’t addressed. It’s very important that you get help in the form of individual or group counseling. Doing that inner work now will help you into the future.

Find Like-Minded People

You may have to give up some relationships that are unhealthy or avoid people who are using. This does not mean you should isolate yourself in a mountain cave. You need people! You need to find other individuals who are sober and moving forward with their lives. Support is essential and makes all the difference between true, fulfilling recovery and just going through the motions.

Find support and friendship through meetings, clean and sober living houses and even online groups and meetups.

No matter what, don’t give up! If you do relapse, keep trying. While not everyone relapses, it’s common and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Dust yourself off and keep going. It sometimes takes several tries to sustain long-term recovery. Don’t beat yourself up- instead, use it as a learning experience. Look at the situation and ask yourself if there is something you can do differently this time.