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How to Start Building a Life After Addiction

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For those who walk the path of getting sober, rebuilding your life can seem overwhelming and intimidating. It may be that you feel you’ve done too much damage to ever dream of getting your life back, or that you feel so out of your element that you don’t know where to begin.

Even so, it is possible to reconstruct your life. It just takes time and patience, both of which can feel like obstacles. If you’re just starting recovery, here are a few helpful tips. 

1. Start with the small things.

The reality is that you can’t change your life overnight. Sometimes this realization is difficult because it’s natural to want to fix things once you’ve begun the process of recovery. But think about it this way: you likely spent a lot of time—years, probably—getting your life to the point it’s currently at. It’s not realistic to expect to undo that type of damage quickly. Instead of focusing on all of it at once, pick a small goal each day and give that your energy and attention. It may not seem like a big thing, or seem like it makes much of a difference overall, but with time you will likely find that the small steps you are taken have made big differences in your life. 

2. Focus on relationships.

So much of our lives revolve around our relationships with others, and these can be some of the hardest things to repair when it comes to rebuilding life in recovery. It’s likely that some of the people in your life are wary of trusting you completely or believing that you are truly trying to change. If you think of it from their point of view, they probably have reasons for those feelings. So instead of getting frustrated, work on communicating that you understand their position and don’t expect an immediate improvement in the relationship. Make it clear that you know you will have to work to regain their trust and that you are open to doing what it takes. 

3. Engage in constructive conversations.

It can be difficult to talk to those in your life about what happened while you were drinking or using, and many times it can bring up an array of emotions. It’s natural to want to shy away from those emotions of guilt and shame, but it’s healing to talk through them instead. If your family members or friends want to have a conversion with you, take them up on it. Sit down and hear them out. Though you may remember things differently and want to interject, let them have their say. Their feelings are completely valid and they likely have held a lot inside over the years. If you want to move toward a positive relationship, this is a step in the process. 

4. Establish a daily routine.

One of the most difficult parts of getting sober is figuring out what to do with all the time. Whether you realize it or not, being in active addiction is time-consuming. Once removed from that lifestyle, you’ll likely find yourself unsure what to do. This is where it becomes important to develop a hobby or interest. There are so many healthy outlets out there to pick up, whether it be writing, reading, working out, crafting … the list goes on. Think about something you’ve always wanted to do or try, and go do it. Even if you don’t like it, you’ll be able to check it off the list and move on to the next thing. This is the perfect time in your life to start discovering what fills you up in the best ways. 

5. Don’t let your recovery fall to the wayside.

Even though you are focused on rebuilding your life, you still have to focus on getting and staying sober. If you attend 12-step meetings, this means continuing to build them into your schedule. If you rely on other forms of support, build those in as well. Another aspect important to recovery is seeking out peer support. No matter how much support family or friends may offer, they probably haven’t walked in your shoes. It’s important to find people you can connect with who relate to what you are going through and can offer advice and support. At times, you may find yourself feeling good and solid in your recovery, and this can make it easy to push it to the side rather than focus on it. But in reality, recovery will always need to stay a point of focus in your life. 

When it comes down to it, rebuilding your life can be a slow process. It has to be taken moment by moment rather than all at once. Thinking about it as one big thing to accomplish isn’t effective, and you will likely end up overwhelmed. Instead, focus on each day in itself. Remind yourself what small steps you can take to move toward the better version of you. 

Beth Leipholtz is the founder of Life to be Continued, a blog about the realities of getting sober young. She writes about her own experience falling into substance use disorder and how she found her way back out. Beth also works as a web designer and photographer in Minnesota. Follow her on Instagram @beth_leipholtz and on Twitter @el9292.

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