When recovery is seen as this long, monolithic and largely daunting section of your life that you must ‘overcome’ and ‘struggle through’, you’re likely putting yourself in a harder spot than you should. Daunting tasks should be broken up into smaller and simpler steps – and the same goes for recovery.
By celebrating recovery milestones and keeping track of your recovery on the basis of individual steps rather than a single long journey, you give yourself moments to pause and reflect, moments to look forward to, goals to celebrate and goals to strive for. By celebrating each recovery milestone, you’re effectively solidifying each step in your journey, fortifying your recovery and your sobriety and safeguarding against boredom, loss of interest in the process, and loss of faith in the idea of recovery as a way to live a happy life.
Here are a few simple recovery milestones to keep track of how you’re doing, but remember that your journey is your own, and what you define as a goal or milestone does not have to conform to what you might find on a list or someone’s own journey. This roadmap is more a general idea of what recovery could look like, but your very own journey and challenges will likely not be completely reflected in this post.
Tracking your recovery is easiest through a notebook or through your phone, or by marking special dates on your calendar.
When Withdrawal Finally Ends
The withdrawal period is a timeframe of certain symptoms that the body usually undergoes after quitting an addiction. Physical dependence numbs the body to certain changes and certain forms of damage, effectively allowing you to continue taking drugs without truly feeling what your body is going through.
On the other hand, the brain also begins to normalize the regular use of a certain drug, causing a cacophony of severe emotional and physical symptoms once you cease usage. In both cases, withdrawal symptoms kick in relatively soon after the last high and can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Drugs that stay in the system for longer and take longer for the body to metabolize may produce withdrawal symptoms for a longer period of time, and certain drugs – depressants such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers and sedatives – can even cause extreme withdrawal symptoms requiring medical help.
Because of these issues and more, overcoming withdrawal symptoms is an incredibly important milestone in any journey of addiction recovery. Most recovering addicts go through the withdrawal process more than once, and it’s both daunting and meaningful each time. To start recovery, you have to first cut yourself off from the physical effects of a drug. Even in a drug-free environment like a sober living home or rehab, this isn’t an easy task.
Getting Started in Therapy
Recovery programs, one-on-one therapy, group therapy, group sessions, or even a form of alternative therapy – there are many ways to heal from an addiction, and the treatment you may receive will depend highly on what you feel works best for you, and how you respond to different treatments.
Getting started is important – only a fraction of people diagnosed with a substance use disorder go through with treatment, and many don’t finish. While progress might not happen instantaneously and while there is no way to magically cure an addiction, modern-day addiction treatment does work, and it can help you tremendously.
Enjoying Your New Hobbies
After an addiction, it can be tremendously difficult to get back into other hobbies. Some people take to a specific thing to help them cope, but many others struggle to find anything as effective as a drug. While drugs can supply a person with a powerful high, their effects are ultimately ephemeral. But there are many ways to continue to have fun and enjoy yourself long after you’ve stopped using drugs. It’s all about finding the right hobbies.
It can take some time but finding something you genuinely start enjoying should be celebrated. More than just another stepping stone, finding things you can do to reduce and deal with stress can make a serious difference in your recovery journey for years to come.
Going A Period of Time Without a Mental Break
Addiction and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand, and while it’s still a minority, many people struggle with mental health issues in recovery, especially depression and/or anxiety.
These issues tend to flare up in early recovery as the mind goes through an emotional roller coaster as a result of quitting an addiction. Progress towards relieving symptoms of anxiety or depression goes hand-in-hand with addiction, as both should be treated concurrently. However, that doesn’t mean it’s comparable to dealing with an addiction without the additional mental health issues.
Feeling ‘normal’ long enough to sense real change in your life needs to be celebrated and reflected upon. Be sure to keep in mind how much progress you’ve made after going sober, even if it doesn’t feel like much progress is being made on a day-to-day basis.
First Day Back at Work
To most people, getting back to work might not sound like a cause to celebrate, but most careers are halted in the face of a serious addiction. Finding a job and holding employment for any significant period of time is a serious feat in recovery.
This is probably one of the largest milestones, as it often takes a considerable amount of effort to reach a point in your recovery journey where you’re finally ready to take on the combined responsibilities of maintaining recovery, and providing for yourself (and others, potentially). Taking responsibility of your life is a step that further gives you greater control and accountability over your own life, bringing you further away from addiction than ever.
The Road Keeps Going
Addiction recovery is a lifelong process – one that never just ‘ends’. And that’s a good thing. It’s not about reaching some ultimate goal, it’s about living life in pursuit of one goal after the other, taking breaks here and there to reflect and be content with what you’ve done, who you are, and what you’ve still got left to do. Recovery never has to be boring, punishing, or futile.