The earliest months of sobriety are an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows accompanied by an intense feeling of not knowing what the hell we’re actually doing. Some of us white-knuckle our way through it. Some of us fall apart frequently. The key to overcoming this rocky road is by moving from sobriety into recovery.

All that is required to be sober is abstinence. “Recovery” can be defined in countless ways and pursued through as many paths. My favorite definition: “Recovery is awareness of the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that block change.”

I practice simplicity and it’s a huge boon to my mental health. We all know that change is inevitable. Resisting it is based in fear and choosing change is an investment. If recovery is about becoming something greater than we are, then we need both a vision of what that looks like and a foundation upon which to build it.

The foundational stuff is boring but necessary: Efforts that support improved physical health and the ongoing process of detoxification (up to a full year). We focus on nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, and addressing known medical issues. We move on to investments in improved emotional and psychological health: counseling, coaching, sponsorship, mentorship, journaling, organizing, developing routines and habits that promote manageable lives.

As we practice healthy choices, we enjoy benefits that aren’t often discussed in mainstream society: Like how nice it is to wake without hangovers, feeling like we might actually be okay holistically, finding some balance, and maybe even some improved relationships with loved ones.

Early on, we would do well to establish our priorities. This is a very simple thing that everyone knows to do and yet few of us actually do it. If the goal is transformation/a better life, then our choices need to be very deliberate and focused.

Alternatively, and because we’re people who are accustomed to living at the extremes, we will take on too much or too little. I’ve served a lot of folks who told me, “Okay! I’ve got three months clean. I just got a new job, I’m working out regularly, hitting five meetings a week and I’m planning on going back to quit smoking and go to college next month!”

And I have to say, “Woah! Maybe that’s a little too much at this juncture?” We’re people who want to make up for lost time. That’s an illusion. More importantly, there’s an adage that is very applicable here: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

Conversely, a lot of us stay at home and hope that we’ll become wake up one day magically comfortable enough with ourselves and then change won’t seem daunting or overwhelming. We know better. As my friends in NA say, “All you have to do is get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” That’s the key to manageable change – go into it knowing that it will get better as you go!

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Published by Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre is an addictions and trauma recovery expert. He is the cofounder of Sobernow.com. Jim invites your comments and questions: [email protected]