Importance of Working a Program in the First Year of Recovery
I define early recovery as 1 year or less. Within the first year of sobriety life can throw a lot your way, good and bad. The easiest part of recovery is learning what you need to do to stay sober. The most difficult part is actually doing it. This is why making your recovery a priority is so important in the first year. When I say making recovery a priority, I mean doing something every day that helps to build your foundation of sobriety. This can be going to an AA or NA meeting, seeing your therapist, meeting with your sponsor, and doing the homework either your sponsor or your therapist has given you for that week. Each one of these things brings your recovery to the forefront of your mind which then helps you to remain mindful of the progress you have made and the reasons that motivate you to stay sober.
When a person is “working a program” they are going to be much more prepared to handle the stress and drama that life brings. When you’re seeing your therapist weekly, attending meetings several times per week (hopefully everyday), and working the steps with your sponsor, the chance and opportunity for relapse is very small. This is due to the fact that you will have so many other coping skills at your fingertips when the stress of life hits you. When a person is triggered to use and they don't have commitments such as AA meeting, and appointments with their therapist or sponsor, it becomes much easier to give in to the temptation to relapse.
Because it is difficult for people in early recovery to accept that building a sober foundation takes so much work, the relapse rate is very high. But it is important to know that relapse is not a failure. Each time a person relapses they get to learn a little bit more about themselves and what it takes to build a sober foundation.
Erick Godel, MFT
Check out these helpful resources: First Year Sobriety, by Guy Kettelhack; My First Year in Recovery: A Journal for the Journey.