Depending on your definition of recovery, it is a process that can last years, or a journey that lasts decades. One way or another, recovery is a very long period – but it can generally be cut into distinct phases, described largely by similar symptoms and issues that many people phase when in that “stage” of their recovery.
Given that sort of distinction, it makes sense that there are harder days and easier days – times when recovery is incredibly difficult, and times when it’s easy. Making the distinction, however, isn’t quite as easy as pinpointing to a specific stage and staying “this is the absolute most critical time for everybody”.
Recovery has its ups and downs, but just like everyone struggles with various parts of addiction, with different realities and circumstances and problems, so does everyone struggle differently throughout their journey. Some have an easy time getting into sobriety – but a tough time living with it for years. Others struggle immensely in the beginning, then find their peace, and never look back.
We’ll make a case for each stage, and then help you figure out how to deal with difficulties when they arise, regardless of what stage is most critical and difficult to you.
Making A Case For The Beginning
For some, there might be nothing harder and more important than starting recovery. Getting over the pain and emotional turmoil of withdrawal, only to fight those extreme cravings and urges, adapt to a whole new life, and tackle some very problematic and troubling emotions all without your most powerful coping mechanism.
All in all, the beginning of recovery can be an extreme rollercoaster, and it sets many people back into addiction through a continuous cycle of withdrawal and relapse. Some consider the beginning to be that hurdle in the ride, a big hill you must cumbersomely hike up before finally gaining momentum, running down the slope.
It’s true that early recovery comes with its own set of unique challenges. For one, it can be very hard to deal with emotions right at the beginning. The brain is also typically not used to sobriety, which can cause painful side effects in the form of nausea, headaches, and more. Sometimes, this withdrawal period can be dangerous enough that it requires emergency medical attention – it’s best to undergo withdrawal in a professional and medical setting, to avoid any complications and possible long-term damage caused.
Beyond that, early recovery will be the first time in a while that you might be confronted by painful emotions without a clear out, or a quick way to light up and fight against the stress, forcing you to learn all-new ways to deal with these emotions.
Making A Case For Post-Rehab
To some, the early phase of recovery is mostly stemmed by the fact that they spent that time in a dedicated residential treatment program, away from the temptations of addiction, and surrounded by features that are helpful to promoting recovery.
So, when all that ends, and you’re out of rehab, perhaps the biggest shock will be figuring out even more about what it means to live in sobriety, and deal with many of life’s biggest challenges – from unexpected loss and grief, to much more minor nuisances and issues.
For that, post-rehab might be the most critical stage for many, as it is the stage when you’re thrown into the chilly waters and expected to swim quickly and with much enthusiasm. You need to learn how to live, work, and study without the addiction, keeping it at bay while working with strange and difficult stressors. If you don’t have nerves of absolute steel or an alternative, post-rehab treatment plan such as living in a recovery community, there is much reason for it to be the hardest time of the three.
Making A Case For The Future
Recovery is clear-cut in the beginning – but as the years drag on, all it might take is one genuine issue to send you back to the beginning of your journey. The fear of this happening is quite real for many patients who struggle with addiction.
Things do get easier, but this anxiety can jeopardize your ability to deal with life’s challenges, as you might be afraid that one will push you over the edge.
In the end, what is most important is figuring out which time is most critical to you – and why.
You’re Not Alone In Recovery
Perhaps the most critical time is not necessarily the beginning, middle or far future – it’s the time you’re the loneliest. Loneliness feeds the feelings that drive addiction far more than anything else, and when you have no one, that’s when it’s hardest to look forward and feel hopeful for your future. It’s also when it’s the hardest to work your way out of where you are, and into a better life.
As selfish as we might feel sometimes, we can’t do much without others – we even rely on others to motivate us, and give us purpose in life.
Many people define themselves through others – artists live to create their art, but they also live to see what kind of an impact their expression has on their contemporaries, and they dream to see into the future and wonder how they would be received then.
Parents look to their children as a reason to keep pushing through every single day, no matter how tough, just to create a better future.
Young couples look to each other for strength and love, and ambitious leaders dream of how their achievements would shape their legacy and be remembered.
Without our peers, it’s difficult to be motivated, driven, or filled with purpose. But when we’re surrounded by friends and reminded that we’re worth something as human beings, it drives us to live up to the expectations of others and seek something better for ourselves – working through the most difficult of days, just to enjoy those precious beautiful memories we all have with our loved ones.
If you’re feeling lonely, please remember that you’re not alone. There are thousands of Americans out there who struggle just like you do, and many of them are online looking for help. Reach out, find new people, and you would be surprised at who you might meet, and what friendships might be waiting for you.