By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: February 12, 2021

The experience of drug or alcohol addiction treatment can be transformative. It is rare that we receive the time to talk with our peers who are struggling with the same problems as we are. In addition, we don’t always have the opportunity to be supported by trained mental healthcare professionals. 

This article discusses the ways in which one can maintain recovery. Being newly out of an inpatient rehab program can also be overwhelming. A newly sober person can feel confused, distracted, have trouble understanding difficult concepts, or experience a range of other physical, emotional, and psychological side effects of abusing drugs or alcohol. With time, most of these side effects dissipate. Closely following an aftercare plan is part of an extended addiction treatment program. Without an aftercare plan, a person in recovery is in a world filled with triggers and stressors that can seem powerful and unmanageable.

5 Key Steps to Maintaining Early Recovery

  1. Find a mental healthcare professional or an aftercare outpatient program if you are able to.
  2. Attend meetings (12 Step recovery groups or alternative recovery groups).
  3. Build a support group including recovering alcoholics and addicts.
  4. Take care of yourself (this includes your diet, sleep habits and physical activity).
  5. Take life one day at a time.

Change Habits from Negative to Positive

The things you believe in during your early stages of recovery may be based upon negative thinking that occurred during your active drug or alcohol addiction. In early recovery, these negative thoughts can lead us down a destructive path toward relapse. For example, if you get clean and sober but return home to unpaid bills, you may experience fear, guilt or shame. You may wonder, “Why did I get clean only to face this mess?” and be tempted to use again to avoid your responsibilities. It is important to remember that your problems will not go away, in fact, they may even worsen if you relapse.

Old responses need to be changed in order to ensure long-term success in your recovery. Not everything wrong in your life is your fault, but you must be willing to acknowledge that your behavior in the past may have been problematic. Just because we get sober does not mean life stops happening, the difference is, we now have the tools to handle situations that used make us want to get high or drink differently. The ability to admit and acknowledge is a process that occurs slowly but surely, one day at a time. The longer you stay focused on “doing the next right thing”, the better your chances of moving forward in your recovery and maintaining abstinence. “Doing the next right thing” has been said to be a tricky concept to grasp, but don’t overcomplicate it. You know what the “wrong” things are, so just do the opposite! 

Using tools such as a spiritual practice and daily affirmations can help you replace negative or destructive thoughts. Sharing your thoughts with other people, such as those in your support group, can help you with your negative thoughts as well. They can tell you how they negotiated their feelings and thoughts in early recovery and replaced them with healthier patterns of behavior.

There are many paths to recovery and several of their elements are consistent:

  • If you do not take a drug or drink, you cannot get high or drunk.
  • Every small action that is positive and life-affirming brings you closer to long-term recovery and health.
  • Acknowledging small successes leads to larger ones.
  • Old habits, like negative thinking or actions, can be replaced with new habits that are positive and life-enhancing. This takes practice and mindfulness.
  • You can’t change the past and you don’t know what the future holds, but you can deal with the present in a positive manner. Remember to be where your feet are.

Should you find yourself succumbing to negative thinking, understand that “Your feelings are not facts, they are feelings.” You are capable of change. You are capable of living free of drugs and alcohol on a daily basis. Replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones can make a huge difference in how you feel and what actions you take.

Here’s an example of two different ways to look at early recovery:


You think: “I can’t do this, it is too hard. I am not good at change. I always fail.” 

You feel: Like a loser. Like a failure. 

You take an action: You decide to drink to escape your feelings and thoughts. 


You think: Recovery is scary, and I don’t understand it. But, I can learn to do it. 

You feel: Optimistic, encouraged, and hopeful. 

You take an action: You start doing affirmations daily. The challenges in early recovery may initially seem overwhelming, but each challenge can be met with strength, courage and positive thinking. You can avoid the pitfalls of negative thinking that more often than not, lead to relapse. You can take control of your recovery, your thoughts, your feelings and your actions.

Drug and Alcohol Detox and Treatment

If you relapse, you need to go through a medically monitored drug or alcohol detox followed by a comprehensive drug or alcohol treatment program. Not all treatment programs are the same nor do they all provide the care needed to address the root causes of addiction. Furthermore, not all treatment programs provide the tools, life skills or aftercare plans that allow patients to cope with the challenges of early recovery. Treatment works. Aftercare works. Change happens. Addiction can be arrested, and recovery solidified.