How Long does Recovery from Addiction Take?

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One Day at a Time, Recovery is a Lifelong Process. When it comes to stepping out of the darkness of addiction into the light of recovery, most people ask the same question: How long is this gonna take?

The truth is, recovery is an ongoing, lifelong process. We say this not to depress or discourage you – quite the opposite! Although it may not feel like it now, living a life of sobriety is a beautiful journey of self-discovery that brings joy, hope, and freedom. Nevertheless, you don’t need to worry about the rest of your life right now. You only need to concern yourself with today and the very immediate future. One day at a time, you can overcome the horrors of addiction.

If you are just getting sober, we recommend that you simply focus on the first 90 days of your recovery. This is a great starting point. Three months is a reasonable amount of time for you to form some positive new habits so you build a solid foundation for the remainder of your recovery. It’s also about the length of time it takes to successfully complete withdrawal.

The Two Stages of Withdrawal – Get Ready To Ride The Rollercoaster

You are probably already at least somewhat familiar with the concept of withdrawal – also known as detoxification. This is what happens when your body becomes accustomed to processing addictive substances, and you suddenly stop using those substances. Basically, your body reacts violently in protest to your decision to get sober by manifesting very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Depending on what drugs you have been using, or how much alcohol you have been drinking, withdrawal symptoms vary.

Here are some common withdrawal symptoms:

• Anxiety
• Depression
• Fatigue
• Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
• Insomnia, sleep disturbances, nightmares
• Extreme cravings for more drugs or alcohol
• Headaches
• Loss of motivation and focus
• An unexplainable feeling of “weirdness”

There are two phases to withdrawal – the Acute Withdrawal Phase and the Post-Acute Withdrawal Phase. Knowing what to expect in the days and weeks to come can make all the difference when it comes to mentally preparing yourself for what lies ahead.

During the acute phase, symptoms will be at their worst. For many drugs (like heroin and prescription painkillers) and especially alcohol, acute withdrawal can be life-threatening. For this reason, it is very important to consult with an addiction specialist to determine if you need to undergo a professional medical detox for your own safety before you stop drinking or drugging on your own. Acute withdrawal typically lasts five to 14 days.

The Post-Acute Withdrawal Phase follows acute withdrawal. During this time, symptoms begin to subside and you find some relief. However; you can experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms during this phase of recovery, which can last as long as three months. Many people refer to this experience as “riding an emotional rollercoaster.” You may go in and out of depression or have bouts of anxiety.

The reason why Post-Acute Withdrawal is so long-lasting is because it takes time for the body to revert back to its normal state of functioning without drugs or alcohol. The brain also needs time to heal so that it can begin naturally producing feel-good chemicals like Serotonin and Dopamine, which help with emotional regulation.

Some Helpful Suggestions for Navigating the First Ninety Days of Recovery

When it comes to getting the drugs or alcohol out of your system, the first three months are the most difficult. After that, you start to feel much better. While it may be challenging, you simply must walk through the pain and discomfort of withdrawal to get to the other side. There is no way to stop drinking or drugging unless you stop drinking or drugging! And, when you stop, you should expect things to be uncomfortable for a little while.

Here are a few helpful suggestions to help you through the beginning stages of recovery:

• Drink plenty of water. You need water to help flush the toxins out of your system. Also, staying hydrated lessens withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings.

• Get plenty of rest. Addiction is physically and mentally exhausting. You need sleep to rejuvenate your body, mind, and spirit.

• Go to 90 12-step meetings in 90 days. This will get you around other recovering people who can tell you how they stayed sober during their first few months of recovery. It will also introduce you to the 12-step process, which will ultimately become the foundation for your recovery.

• Exercise. Okay, we understand that the last thing you feel like doing when you’re sobering up is going for a jog around the block. However; a 20 minute walk every day can work wonders for your recovery process. It will help you walk off nervous energy and help your body heal more quickly.

While these suggestions are helpful, you should keep in mind that time is the best antidote for getting sober. Although we wish there were an easier, softer way to navigate withdrawal; you simply must allow your body to undergo the healing process at its own pace.

Stay Encouraged – You CAN Do This!

No matter how difficult the early days may feel, you have to stay committed to the recovery process – no matter what. It will get better and you will start to feel comfortable in your own skin and begin to feel the freedom sobriety has to offer.

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