Guide to Early Recovery

10-Steps to a Sober Future! [Incl. BONUS Case Studies!]


Here’s the deal:

At Ocean Recovery Centre  we treat thousands of clients each year for drug and alcohol addiction. Many of these clients are new to life ‘in recovery.’

Patients often enter their new abstinent existence following many years of drug and/or alcohol addiction.

Patients frequently cite the first three months of their recovery for being the most difficult. This notion is almost universally agreed by people now living in recovery.

Studies reveal the greatest number of relapses occur during the first 90 days of being in recovery. During this time, the resolve of new comings to recovery will be tested, and some unfortunately will suffer from a relapse.

Many new to recovery will be surprised and delighted by their new found energy. Unfortunately, this means those new to recovery are too over confident, a condition known as ‘pink cloud syndrome’. This means they may neglect going to meetings or expose themselves to their ‘addiction triggers’ believing they have gained the required mental strength to avoid a relapse.

Unfortunately, the early days of recovery are the most fragile, and when you are your most vulnerable to relapse. It is important to remember that Rehab is not a 28 day cure but a life long commitment, and you should try and complete the full term or at least consider the risks of leaving rehab early.


 This 10-Step Strategy for Early Recovery = More Success, Less Relapse and a Healthier & Longer Life!

10 steps

To assist those new to recovery, we have authored this list of unofficial steps to conquering the early days of being ‘in recovery.’

Many of these ‘steps’ are strictly guidelines, but we urge you to nevertheless follow them as if they were rules.

Some are proven.

Some are controversial.

You may even say some of the below ‘steps’ are mere speculation.

But they’re all included for your reference.


Step #1. Be prepared for your return home following the completion of treatment

If you sought inclient treatment, ensure you make suitable arrangements for your return home. This typically means ensuring you receive some form of care from your loved ones. Stock up on nutritious foods and vitamin supplements.

You must also purge your home of booze, non-essential medications and any other items that threatens your recovery.

These steps will ensure you return to a safe and caring environment following the conclusion of rehab.


Step #2: Get support from friends/loved ones


Succeeding in your recovery is easier if you have the support of friends and family members. This means educating your friends and family about the science and nature of addiction.

Assistance from loved ones is almost essential during the first few days and weeks following rehab when you will likely require mental and psychical support.

We urge you to reach out to loved ones who will encourage your recovery. This may require you to reach out to loved ones who are not in your immediate family or friendship circle.


Step #3. Know Your Triggers of Addiction and Avoid them


finger on the trigger of a black assault rifle
Seasoned recovered addicts may be able to cope when exposed to their ‘triggers’ of addiction. However, if you are new to recovery then we advise you to avoid your triggers of addiction at all cost. This advice holds true no matter how strong you believe yourself to be.

Some of these ‘triggers’ typically include:

  • Hanging out at old ‘haunts’ such as pubs and night clubs
  • Hanging out with former drinking friends who are not themselves in recovery
  • Exposing yourself certain situations that are likely to induce stress, anger or other negative emotions
  • Neglecting sleep and good nutrition

 Step #4: Don’t be overconfident

Young adult white female pointing fingers at herself
At Ocean Recovery Centre I’ve seen many of our clients experience overconfidence when they’ve achieved their recovery ‘milestone.’

This is often known as ‘pink cloud syndrome.’

In fact, I’ve even witnessed clients self-discharge themselves before their treatment concluded because they felt ‘so strong.’ This reasoning is faulty and often results in early relapse.

Recovery isn’t really a ‘milestone.’ Rather, recovery requires an ongoing effort. That’s why it is called ‘being in recovery’ rather than being ‘recovered.’

Premature overconfidence in your recovery often means you return to your pre-recovery lifestyle patterns.

Again, this all-to-often results in an early relapse.


Step #5: Keep going to meetings

Unfortunately many people new to recovery stop going to recovery meetings, believing them to be a waste of time.

When we say ‘meetings’ we mean aftercare sessions, AA, NA, SMART Recovery etc.

Some people new to recovery reason they’ve ‘made the grade‘, since they’re ‘in recovery.’

So why continue going to these time-costing meetings?

Because they these meetings serve as a reminder of the reality of the situation you are in. You will learn from more experienced people about the delicacy of your situation. Therefore, it is essential you continue to go to meetings for at least the initial 90 days of your recovery.

For this reason, many meeting groups offer a ’90 in 90′ service. This allows you to attend meetings every day for 90 days.


Step #6: Enlist a ‘sponsor’ or mentor

A sponsor or mentor is typically a person who has lived ‘in recovery’ for many years. This person will aid you through the fragile initial weeks and months of your own recovery, and will other his or her assistance if you experience a crisis that threatens your recovery.


Step #7: Prioritise your recovery over all other commitments

When you are new to recovery, we urge you to exercise a sense of selfishness. This means not attending that wedding, party or gathering where alcohol is served.

Do not assume you are strong enough to cope with the temptation, because you are highly likely not.

Put your recovery before your career, you family and your friends.

This step may sound abstract and ethereal, but psychological commitment and setting your priorities in favour of your recovery is absolutely key.


Step #8: Set goals that promote healthy living

When you are new to recovery, you will be surprised by the amount of spare time that becomes available to you.

This is because you no longer consume your time by taking drugs and alcohol.

It’s essential you refocus your goals so that boredom does not kick in.

Boredom is a major trigger of addiction.

Ensure you litter your diary with meetings, activities and occasions.

Step #9: Get lots of sleep

Disturbed sleep is common for people new to recovery. When you are addicted to drug or alcohol, your sleep patterns are disrupted, and it takes time to return to a healthy sleeping regime.

Nightmares involving alcohol use are common for people new to recovery.

We recommend you avoid medications designed to help you sleep. Many of these medications are themselves highly addictive.

Instead, follow the below advice:

  1. Establish a comfortable sleeping environment
  2. Stick to a pre-agreed sleeping timetable when you sleep and arise at a set time each night and day
  3. Avoid caffeine after 5pm
  4. Avoid ‘cat naps’
  5. Maintain a sleep diary
  6. Do not snack after 8pm
  7. Do not consume large meals after 6pm
  8. Keep your bed for sleeping. Do not watch TV or read whilst in bed

Step #10: Take nutrition seriously

When you are hungry you are likely to feel down. When you feel down, you put your recovery at risk.

Likewise, when you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar is likely to yo-yo. This yo-yo effect is likely to make you feel bad. When you feel bad, you risk your recovery.

So don’t set yourself up for failure by snacking on poor quality food. Instead, consume lots of nutritious food rich in vitamins and minerals. This includes seafood, lean meat, whole foods and whole grains.


Case Studies

Education concept: Case Study on Green puzzle pieces background, 3d render


Now we include some real-life case studies detailing how real people dealt with the early stages of their recovery . . .


** Case Study #1: Neil from Oasis Counselling **


Hi, my name is Neil and I am an employee at Oasis Counselling in South Africa. I was 40 and working when I started recovery. My life was narrow, without hope and unmanageable. Always a heavy drinker, as my life stalled I increasingly used alcohol to make me feel okay and to function. However, this worsened both my outlook and my anxiety.

Tough love and the sense that my life wasn’t working combined to lead me to seek medical help.

I did 28 days primary care in the UK and 3 months extended secondary care in South Africa. Treatment consisted of group therapy, one to one counselling, assignments and various activities and outings.

How I dealt with the early stages of my recovery

After treatment, I attended AA meetings regularly, got a sponsor, did the steps and socialized with friends in early recovery. I also still attended one to ones and Aftercare therapy. I talked about my anxiety, fears, and confusion. I began to help others in recovery. I did temporary work, paid rent, bills and kept my word. I earned respect and trust from others and my family slowly. Confidence grew and anxiety lessened. I started to live in reality and truth.

I now am 9 years sober. Life will always be somewhat difficult yet, sober, it is not impossible.


** Case Study #2: Victor Leonard **


Hi, My name is Victor Leonard and I am fifty-three years old. I was born in the City of Winnipeg, but later grew up in the crazy and often dangerous steelworker’s town of Selkirk, Manitoba.

My drinking career started quite early on at 11 or 12 years of age. I experienced a traumatic childhood and moved away from home at fifteen with only a grade nine education.

I did quite well for myself and eventually started my own company. I was happily married with one daughter and a beautiful home on the water.

A stock market crash took away my company and not long after I was a divorced single parent. Several years later I was injured on a job site and lost the ability to work. Then everything went downhill from the drugs and alcohol!

I began my recovery process in 2010. However, it took several years to remove these substances from my life. It was a terrible battle in those early days. I tried councillors, doctors, psychiatrists, and hundreds of AA meetings, but nothing could remove those deadly cravings.

How I dealt with the early stages of my recovery

Through turmoil and tragedy, I eventually connected with my “Higher Power” who is God of the Bible. Only he could do for me what I could not and I am eternally grateful to God for my spiritual awakening!

I now serve other addicts and alcoholics through writing faith-based books and my weekly blog.


** Case Study #3: Todd Crandell from Racing for Recovery **


My name is Todd Crandell I’m a father, a husband, an author, a speaker, and founder of the federally approved 501 c 3 non-profit Racing for Recovery.

I became addicted by two means. I believe I am genetically disposed to addiction through my mom who was addicted and committed suicide because of her addiction. I chose drugs initially because of curiosity and battling emotional issues but once that first drink was taken I was off on another path and the second time I drank was an entire bottle of Jack Daniels and some speed as well. Every time I used drugs it was full on so the addiction component took place right away. This all started at the age of 13 and when I tried cocaine for the first time at the age of 17 that is when I found my drug of choice and really became a slave to that drug and the addiction lifestyle that lead to severe consequences.

My treatments over the years consisted of counselling, one client rehab, hypnotist and a few support group meetings. My final “treatment” was receiving a third drunk driving charge on April 15, 1993 registering a .36 and I finally made the CHOICE to simply stop and went cold turkey at that moment and never touched a drug or drink since then.

How I dealt with the early stages of my recovery

During my early stages of recovery, I focused on simply putting the same effort into bettering myself that was previously used for self-destruction. I looked at people who had what I wanted and then I put ACTION into doing the work. I read books, watched movies, exercised, talked with family, ate healthy, got educated and applied that knowledge. I also began to deal with the emotional issues that lead to my CHOICE to use drugs and began the healing process.

I began to build a new sober network and lifestyle. I avoided any negativity in any capacity and utilized positive thoughts and actions to guide my new way of living.

There is no relapse this is a daily choice we make each and every day and I wanted the self-empowerment mind-set to guide my life not the “powerless” of I can’t help myself


If like Todd you have an alcoholic parent then check out our tips for living with an alcoholic parent.

About the Author

Well that’s it for one day!

Did you enjoy this post?

Let me know by contacting me.

My name is Paul Clarke and I am a writing in several health related fields. I hail from the North West of England.

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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: March 24, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.