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  • Adam Stanford

The Addiction Recovery Timeline



The addiction recovery timeline refers to the various stages that individuals with addiction go through during their recovery journey. While the timeline may vary depending on the individual's circumstances, the general pattern of recovery is similar for most people.


The Withdrawal Phase

During this phase, the individual experiences physical and psychological symptoms as their body adjusts to the absence of the substance. The symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, tremors, sweating, anxiety, and depression. The severity of these symptoms varies depending on the individual's addiction history, the substance, and other factors such as age and overall health. If your use was less than daily, you might avoid most of the physical symptoms. Most withdrawal symptoms will significantly subside within 72 hours max.


It may be crucial to prepare for the withdrawal phase by seeking medical assistance and support from addiction professionals. Doctors can prescribe medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and monitor the individual's overall health. Be aware that withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines can cause life threatening seizures, so quitting these substances really needs to be done under the guidance of a physician.


There’s usually a substantial temptation to use again during this phase as the symptoms may feel too difficult to endure. You’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for this challenge and remind yourself frequently why you’ve made this choice. Be sure to stay hydrated, take some time off, rest, and distract yourself from cravings.


The Honeymoon Phase

The honeymoon phase can last for a few weeks or possibly up to a couple of months. During this phase, the individual experiences a sense of relief, euphoria, hope, and motivation as they begin to feel the benefits of sobriety. However, it is imperative to note that the honeymoon phase can be deceiving and individuals may be caught off guard with cravings and triggers that can lead to relapse. Remain diligent and do not be fooled into thinking sobriety will no longer be challenging.


The Wall

The wall is hardest when you first hit it but difficulties and frustration can hit again from time to time throughout. It can take about six months of sobriety to really notice signs of the brain healing from the impacts of use but many people notice daily sober life getting easier around 3 months in. This is when the realities of sober life really hit and people feel the real weight of dealing with life’s challenges rather than using substances to hide from them.

Coping Strategies for The Wall Phase


  • Practicing constructive thinking and reframing negative thoughts can help individuals stay motivated and focused during the wall phase. It is most helpful to focus on the benefits of sobriety and the progress made rather than the setbacks and challenges.


  • Setting realistic goals and tracking progress can help individuals stay motivated and focused during the wall phase. Celebrate small victories and milestones as they occur to maintain a sense of accomplishment and progress.


  • Maintaining a strong support system during the wall phase is crucial. It is essential to seek support from addiction professionals, support groups, family, and friends. A strong support system can provide emotional and psychological support during this challenging phase.


The Adjustment Phase

The adjustment phase can last for several months or years. During this phase, the individual continues to learn to live without addiction and develop coping strategies to manage triggers and cravings. The individual may also focus on rebuilding relationships, pursuing career and other personal goals, and engaging in activities that promote overall well-being.


Coping Strategies for the Adjustment Phase


  • Use apps, therapy, YouTube, books, and other resources to work on developing mindfulness skills and self-awareness. Try journaling your thoughts and feelings as well discussing them with others who are in recovery.


  • Maintaining healthy habits such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can help individuals manage the adjustment phase. Focus on building a life worth living in which you have many natural sources of dopamine and happiness without relying on substances to feel good.


  • Maintaining a strong support system during the adjustment phase is crucial. Continue seeking support from addiction professionals, support groups, family, and friends.


Maintenance

Maintenance refers to the ongoing process of staying sober and avoiding relapse after you have adjusted to your new sober life. You may think that you can use again in lesser amounts, but oftentimes the brain will pick up with the addiction process right where it left off, throwing you back into a cycle of triggers and cravings after even a small amount of use.

Relapse

Obviously it is ideal for this to never happen, but perhaps the most paramount thing you need to keep in mind through the recovery process is that relapse doesn’t mean you have to start all over. People who think relapse means all progress is lost and they are back to square one will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who believe they can immediately pick right back up where they left off after a slip up will have a far easier time with recovery.


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