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What Are Realistic Expectations for Addiction Recovery?

Setting expectations for recovery can be tricky. If you don’t expect your life to improve considerably, you may not put much effort into sobriety. On the other hand, if you expect too much improvement too soon, you may become disappointed, discouraged, and cynical. Life will definitely get better, but there will be challenges too. Having reasonable expectations will help you keep going when recovery feels hard.

First of all, you have to get through detox. Depending on what you’re addicted to and for how long, your experience can range from unpleasant to unbelievably awful. Many people who decide to get sober can’t make it through detox. It helps to detox in a facility that can monitor your health and treat your symptoms.

Once you get through detox, some things will improve right away. You’ll feel much better when you wake up in the morning without a hangover and remember what you did the night before. You’ll probably have a little extra money that used to go to drugs and alcohol. You may feel a sense of cautious optimism or gratitude that you’ve started getting your life together.

Other improvements will take longer. For the first few month to a year, you will probably experience some emotional swings, irritability, depression, and anxiety. You will certainly experience cravings. Some people feel like the cravings will never stop and so they just give up. Cravings do eventually diminish with time and practice. You just have to be patient.

Another common frustration is regaining trust of friends and family. A lot of people feel like they’re working hard, going to treatment, attending meetings, and people still don’t trust them. It can take a while to earn back trust from others and it’s not something you have much control over. What you can control is doing the things that strengthen your recovery. Eventually, people will start to trust you again, but if they don’t, you have to learn to accept that.

The first year is also hard because you have to learn to deal with stress without resorting to drugs or alcohol. Life keeps happening and it’s normal for things to go wrong sometimes. Often those things can feel worse when you have to confront them rather than avoid them. Finding healthy ways to deal with everyday challenges takes a bit of practice.

If you want to know what you can expect from recovery, go to 12-step meetings and listen to what people have to say. Ask questions of people who have been sober for a while. You’ll notice certain patterns emerge and you won’t feel like you’re stumbling in the dark. The most important thing to remember is that life will get better but you will have to face some challenges.

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