First Year of Recovery — Change and Progress

Recovery is hard. It is a process that requires changing everything in order to recreate who you are from who you were and during that process you must change from the inside out if you are to change and continue to change as time goes on.

The first year is the hardest.

During that first year you will change a lot, some good and some bad, but in the end staying the same is not possible for those who want to grow and gain that spiritual experience that is required for true lasting change to take place and to defend ourselves from that first drink/drug/etc.

I have experienced profound change in my first year. The changes that I have experienced have been mental, emotional, and physical and it has progressed as time has gone on. The changes that happen in recovery are profound and give people hope that things can be change and life can get better than it was when we were out there.

At times we may feel like things are not changing and that life was better when we were using, but these feelings are simply our disease trying to reel us back in and stop the progress that we have made and have no basis in reality or facts.

The changes that happen in recovery are ones that many of us have sought out for a lifetime and ones that we hoped to accomplish with the use of drugs or alcohol, but could not achieve. It was only through a spiritual experience that these changes happened for me and that is how they happen for everyone in the program of recovery.

Emotional change

Emotions are everywhere when you first get clean. People feel that their world has been thrown for a loop once they no longer have the crutch of drugs and alcohol and that can be a tough place to be for people who are used to using these substances to check out.

I believe that there are several stages of emotional change during the first year of recovery. The first one happens around thirty days or so and that is a major challenge for those who want to stay sober and not go back out, this first test is an important one to pass for the alcoholic/addict.

This test will put you up against the wall as your mind will tell you that having feelings of anxiety, sadness, and despair are a good reason to pick up again but they are not. Self-medicating is easy to do in early recovery because we have done it for so long and emotions in these early days will be all over the place for most, it is a dangerous time.

The second stage in my experience happens around 4–6 months sober.

This is another challenging time for us. We have enough recovery to know better, but not enough tools to stay the course as we have not done the work yet, or at least we have not been sober long enough to have done enough work that will give us more tools to stay the course.

Emotions are high in the first year. We may have made some changes in the way our emotions are and how we emotionally react to the world and the people around us, but we still have not done enough to combat these emotions in a positive way and for those with mental health issues, this can be even more challenging.

The third time when we face emotional challenges within the first year comes at the end of the first year — in the 11th month.

This is when we are approaching that important year that has been elusive for so many for so long, including myself. The disease tells us that our emotions are a good reason to go back to that drink or drug and during the 11th month that may sound like a good idea and even like a great idea at times and this is why I believe this is a good time to do a refresher course on our steps.

We may have to go back and do some work on those early recovery steps.

That being said. We change a lot in the first year emotionally and as someone who used to react to everyone and everything in a toxic and childish way before recovery and saw no way out, I no longer act this way and it is all because of the work I have done in recovery in that first year that has changed me emotionally.

Mental change

Just like emotional change, mental change is a vital part of that first year growth as well.

Mentally people who first get clean and sober have had flawed patterns of thinking and they must recreate those ways of thinking if they are to stay sober and stay on this path of personal growth and change.

Even besides recovery, every change starts with having a positive set of thoughts. The way that we grow and change is to have different ways of thinking and more positive ways of viewing things and when we can do that, we are well on our way to better things.

In that first year we must change our thinking if we are to change the rest of ourselves and change. It starts with our thinking. Like they say, we do not have a drinking problem but rather a thinking problem and this is true of anyone who relapses, the decline starts with their thinking, that is the start of their fall.

We must have a complete psychic change in order to change ourselves and be ready for the rest of the changes that are to come as if we do not then life will not be the way that we want it to be and we cannot grow into the spiritual beings that we strive to be and that we are meant to be, it all happens from having a different mindset.

Physical change

In the first year there are other changes that we can make that make us into different people and one of those is physical change and to get healthier and thus become happier people. These changes are not for everybody but it has been said that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and so on and I find this to be true.

I found that working out and eating healthy is good for several reasons. When we look good then we feel good and we are able to feel better about ourselves and of course, confidence is important towards getting the things we want out of life and thus having a stronger self and sobriety.

A routine is important towards achieving this. Being active can be good for our sobriety, our sanity, and everything in between because the body and mind are one in many ways, when we look good then we feel good and vice versa as well as the fact that when we exercise it releases endorphins in the brain that can help with mental and emotional states.

Spiritual change

Lastly, we have spiritual change.

This type of change is hard for a lot of people in recovery and in the first yer because of the views people have on religion and God, but spirituality is not the same as religion — they are different.

We are a spiritual, not religious program AA says and it is true.

I have found that the key to staying sober is relying on a power greater than myself and finding that inner peace. I have struggled at times with being in a spiritually fit place in my recovery, but I feel that in the first year this is a very important part of growth and the journey of recovery.

It is always important, but especially in that first year I find having that connection with a higher power can mean the difference between picking up that drink or drug when things get rough and not doing it. I feel it is that important to recreate ourselves spiritually as much as the other ways that we change.

The first year is hard and at times REALLY hard, but we do change and we can change throughout our sobriety and our lives. We have the chance to change and recreate who we are into who we aim to be each day upon awakening if we just remember where we came from, who we are, and what we value in this life and if we do that, then we will continue to change and grow and be who we were born to be.




Author, activist, American. Love to write everything from politics to recovery and much more. Find me on Twitter under my name for much more!

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Quarantine — An Opportunity to Discover Self

How meditation and mindfulness saved teen Cherrial O’Dell’s life. Grab a tissue.

Who’d You Be Today

Are You Affected By Depression?

Things You Should Know About Me. Pt 2:

A cognitive bias — looking at your own culture from away

My Worst Trauma and Moving Past it.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Rob Clewley

Rob Clewley

Author, activist, American. Love to write everything from politics to recovery and much more. Find me on Twitter under my name for much more!

More from Medium

I skipped 69 boozy brunches…here’s what you should know.

Couple sits in the grass together above the town.

Do You Have Destination Addiction?

I am no longer ashamed of my grief

Study says drinking lager could promote gut health in men