As you move further from your past, you may wonder when the novelty and changes of your recovery will begin to settle into familiarity. When will life in sobriety feel as natural and normal as life felt beforehand? While each person’s timeline is unique, there are certain milestones you can look for, as well as tools and tips for getting comfortable in your new lifestyle.
Embracing the “New Normal”
The truth about recovery is that things probably won’t feel like they did before. Before you were sober, there were reasons why you were choosing to drink or use drugs, whether it be to numb out mental illness or to cope with stress or trauma. This “normal” wasn’t ideal or healthy, so when searching for a feeling of normal, the time before treatment isn’t the place to look.
Sobriety and your new lifestyle will become a “new normal.” You might feel like a fish out of water for a while as you adjust to your schedule and practice healthier coping methods, but once things become routine, things won’t feel so strange and will eventually become your “new normal.”
The Different Levels of “Normal”
Sobriety comes with different phases of normalcy. There’s the time during and after detox when the substances leave your system, and you need to adjust to physically being sober. Your body doesn’t feel normal during this, but after a few weeks, you start to feel “normal” after the withdrawals.
Likewise, during treatment, the activities you join probably won’t feel normal for you. It’ll feel weird to have so much structure and a tight schedule. You’ll probably feel uncomfortable talking to your therapist at first and sharing difficult details about your life. You might feel awkward at your first 12-Step meeting or yoga class. These things are new to you, but they won’t feel so weird and become a normal part of your recovery once time passes.
The Truth About PAWS
When going through detox and treatment, your body is physically adjusting to existing without substances, and it takes a while to adapt to the changes. Substance use takes an enormous toll on the body and completely changes the wiring of your brain. Many substances can cause a condition called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).
PAWS occurs after the regular acute symptoms of withdrawal, and episodes can continue cyclically for a year. People who have persistently used substances in large amounts for a long time are more susceptible to PAWS after detox. Symptoms include mood swings, irritability, low energy and fatigue, insomnia insomnia, and chronic pain. PAWS can disrupt the feeling of normalcy, which is why proper treatment and aftercare are so important for recovery.
Talking with a therapist and attending a 12-Step group can give you the support you need to stay sober and find that feeling of normalcy again while you adjust to your new life.
Building Your Foundation
Creating a healthy life post-treatment is yet another step in achieving a “new normal.” While you might have already adjusted to being in treatment, now you need to adapt to your everyday life. Having a foundation to base your life around can give you control over what will be your new normal.
This is a critical time when you can set your schedule and goals. Your foundation will feel new and exciting but will give you a starting place to feel comfortable. Start by settling on your routines and prioritizing what’s important, like therapy, 12-Step meetings, fitness, finances, and other forms of support.
Mastering Your Routines
Once your foundation is built, the next step to normalcy is adjusting to your new routines. After some time, these routines will become habitual. You’ll get used to making your bed every day and brushing your teeth every morning. Working out won’t feel different. Planning meals and cooking for yourself won’t feel like a novel activity. They just become a part of your life, something that’s expected and normal. It might feel weird if you skip those steps.
Practicing good habits that replaced your old, bad habits will eventually feel as familiar as drinking after work once did. Attending meetings every week will feel as normal as going to the bar.
Feeling Comfortable In Your Skin
Sobriety also gives you an uncomfortable sense of self-awareness. This feeling is also temporary. Before, it may have been easier to hide behind alcohol and substances when you didn’t feel great about yourself. You might have had low self-esteem before. Maybe you didn’t like your appearance and might have had a low sense of self-worth.
Your new life will give you a healthier outlook on all aspects of your life. Regular exercise boosts self-esteem, and eating well improves your mental health. Seeing a therapist and working through your negative thoughts can give you a new perspective on where it all comes from.
Feeling comfortable with yourself as a sober person is yet another step to feeling normal. Knowing that you don’t need to drink to have fun at a party and that people can enjoy you as you are are things that add to feeling “normal” without using drugs or alcohol.
Accepting Your New Life
In the beginning, you might subconsciously resist your new life, even if it’s for the best. You know that it’s good for you to be healthier. You know that life before wasn’t great. You may even miss your old life, to a certain extent. These feelings will pass and, In time, you will embrace your new lifestyle and feel grateful that you took this journey, that you had enough courage to seek help and get better.
You’ve experienced a rollercoaster. You woke up, took a look around, and realized that you deserved better. You mended relationships and worked on finances, and picked up the pieces. You did the work, so be proud of your “new normal” and enjoy the new life you’ve built.
Getting treatment for substance use issues is a time of significant change, and it can be hard to feel “normal” during the process. You aren’t used to being sober or attending classes and meetings. Your schedule is different, and your social life might never be the same. As such, a sense of “normal” might feel far away as you adjust to your new lifestyle, but you won’t feel this way forever. Sobriety does eventually feel normal. Discomfort comes with change, but as you repeat your new routines and your body adapts to living without substances, not only do you start to feel normal, but you begin to feel like you’re thriving. Cornerstone offers aftercare options to all of our clients, including navigation and therapy. If you would like more advice on adjusting to your new life, call us at (800) 643-2108. Our staff is glad to help with any questions you have about adapting to your sober lifestyle.