Entries tagged with “Tips for Recovery”.

What To ExpectWhen you’ve made the decision to seek addiction treatment, it’s hard to imagine what your life will be like without drugs or alcohol. Although no two people are exactly alike, this article outlines some of the issues you can expect to deal with during your first year in recovery.


The term withdrawal refers to the physical symptoms you experience after drugs or alcohol leave your system.

Withdrawal symptoms depend upon the substance being abused and your length of use, but often include stomach upset, sweating, headache, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. A medical detox helps you avoid dangerous side effects and keeps you as comfortable as possible.

Acute withdrawal symptoms start to taper off as your brain chemistry adjusts to a normal level. However, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from six months to two years. Common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include difficulty with memory and concentration, decreased physical coordination, and trouble managing emotions.


Once detox has been completed, counseling is vital part of setting the foundation for long term sobriety. Counseling typically involves a mixture of individual, group, and family sessions. Your counselor may also recommend experiential therapies such as art, music, or equine therapy.

If you suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression or PTSD, your treatment plan will need to address both issues simultaneously. Often, people with mental health disorders turn to substance abuse to self-medicate the symptoms of their condition. If their mental health needs aren’t addressed, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain sobriety.

Celebrating 30 Days of Sobriety

Having 30 days of sobriety under your belt is considered a huge milestone. At this time, your withdrawal symptoms have become more manageable and your counseling sessions have provided you with the tools you need to begin a life free from the burdens of substance abuse.

Near the 30-day mark, you’ll likely be transitioning from an inpatient treatment facility to outpatient care. Your counselor will provide you with a detailed aftercare plan to make the adjustment process easier.

Creating a Strong Support System

After leaving an inpatient treatment facility, you’ll want to keep up the recovery momentum by creating a strong support system for yourself. Your facility’s aftercare resources are a good place to start, but you can also turn to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous to connect you with people who understand the challenges you’re facing.

People in the early stages of recovery often find that turning to their faith provides comfort. The new friends you meet in worship services and church activities can play a vital role in your recovery by providing encouragement and accountability, even if they have no personal experience with substance abuse.

Building Routines

During the first year of recovery, much of your time will be spent creating a routine for yourself. You’ll need to figure out how to balance work, family, social, and treatment obligations. Using a traditional day planner or a scheduling app on your phone may make it easier to keep track of appointments.

As you’re building a routine for yourself, remember to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Not giving yourself enough time to relax can create stress, which places you at risk of relapse.

Repairing Relationships

When you’re struggling with addiction, it’s easy to inadvertently hurt the ones you love. Restoring trust with friends and family will take time, so be patient with this part of the process.

A sincere apology is always a good place to start, but most people in recovery find that their loved ones respond well to seeing how hard they are working to stay sober. Keep your loved ones informed of your recovery milestones while making an effort to communicate honestly and openly.

Discovering Sober Hobbies

One of the most exciting parts of embracing a sober lifestyle is developing new hobbies. During your first year in recovery, give yourself permission to explore areas of interest—even if they put you outside of your comfort zone.

As you’re thinking about what activities appeal to you, consider aiming for a mix of solo and group hobbies. Solo hobbies such as reading, creative writing, gardening, or painting provide a way to distract yourself when cravings hit. Group activities such as joining a bowling league, volunteering at a local nonprofit, or trying out for a community theater production let you expand your social circle.

Avoiding the Dangers of Overconfidence

As you get closer to the one-year mark, it’s natural to become more confident in your sobriety. Feeling comfortable living clean and sober is an excellent sign, but overconfidence can be a risk factor for relapse.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic illness. Just as someone with diabetes needs to continually monitor their blood sugar, eat right, and exercise, you’ll need to stay on top of your treatment plan to manage your sobriety.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

Related articles:

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Goals for the New YearMaking New Year’s resolutions may be a time-honored tradition, but most of us aren’t very good at keeping those resolutions. Often, our lack of follow-through isn’t a matter of motivation or willpower. It’s because we haven’t taken the time to set goals that are effective in bringing about real changes in our lives. If you’re in recovery, setting SMART goals can help you stay sober and prevent relapse.

What Are SMART Goals?

Effective goals follow the principles outlined in the acronym SMART.

  • SPECIFIC: The goal involves a precise outcome that is desired.
  • MEASURABLE: The goal has a way to measure your progress.
  • ACTION-ORIENTED: The goal explains what behaviors you must follow to achieve your objectives.
  • REALISTIC: The goal is reasonably attainable given the current tools and resources at your disposal.
  • TIMELY: The goal comes with a built-in timeframe that gives you a sense of completion, such as doing something every day or once a week.

The SMART goal framework helps prevent some of the most common mistakes people make when setting goals by encouraging you to turn vague ambitions into specific and actionable steps that can be undertaken to achieve your objective.

Why Use SMART Goals for Addiction Recovery?

The SMART goals acronym can be used in any situation, but it’s particularly useful for people in recovery. Getting clean after being addicted to drugs or alcohol for a long period of time requires a total lifestyle change, which often feels overwhelming. The SMART goals acronym helps you visualize your recovery as a series of smaller and more manageable steps.

For example, one common goal people try to set for themselves in recovery is “I’m never going to relapse.” While this is certainly an admirable sentiment, the time parameter involved is too long and there are no steps explained for how you want to prevent relapse. (Remember that addiction is a chronic illness, you can’t simply pronounce yourself cured after going through detox.)

Better examples of goals to set for yourself include:

  • When I feel the urge to drink or use drugs, I’m going to call my sponsor.
  • I will write in my journal for 15 minutes before bed each night to better understand what factors in my life affect my cravings for drugs and alcohol.
  • I will exercise for 30 minutes per day to keep my energy level up and release endorphins to improve my mood.
  • I’m going to go to guitar lessons once per week, since music helps me cope with my cravings.
  • I will attend worship services each week, using my faith as a tool to assist in my recovery.
  • I’m going to apply for two jobs per week that offer at least 20 hours of work until I find a position that suits my needs.
  • On Friday nights, I will cook dinner for my family while we talk about what has happened during the week.
  • I will begin each day by spending 15 minutes celebrating the progress I’ve made in my recovery.

Short Term vs. Long Term Goals for Recovery

When setting SMART goals for your recovery, it’s important to think about both short term and long term goals. A successful recovery plan should include a mix of both goal types.

Short term goals are those that focus on the immediate challenge of maintaining your sobriety, such as controlling cravings, staying in contact with your sponsor, and attending therapy regularly. The sobriety chips given in AA meetings for 24 hours, 30 days, and 60 days of sobriety recognize the importance of setting short term goals in recovery.

For many people, long term goals often focus on what type of sober life they want to build for themselves. For example, you might be imagining a special anniversary trip to celebrate 25 years with your spouse. Or, you might want to finish your degree so you can be a good role model for your child as he or she enters high school. Long term goals can be one year, five years, or 10 years away—as long as they help keep you motivated on a day to day basis.

Evaluating Your Progress

Setting goals is an important part of creating a sustained recovery, but you also need to evaluate your progress periodically to make sure you’re on the right path.  If you’re struggling, it may be time to approach the problem differently. For example, if you’re worried you’re not making any progress finding post-recovery employment, you may need to arrange a meeting with a career counselor who can review your resume and offer some interview tips to boost your confidence.

It’s okay to make mistakes along the way, as long as you don’t use minor slip ups as an excuse to stop trying to live a clean and sober life.  Recovery is about progress, not perfection.

By Dana Hinders

If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment, please call St. Joseph Institute at 888-352-3297.

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

quit smokingAccording to the CDC, about 15 percent of adults in the United States are smokers. However, smoking rates are significantly higher among people who are also struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

If you’re considering seeking treatment, you may find yourself wondering if it’s best to quit smoking while you’re in rehab or if you should concentrate on beating one addiction at a time. The answer to this question depends on several different factors, including your own personal recovery preference.

The Link Between Smoking and Recovery

Long term tobacco use can cause a wide range of health problems, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease. However, the health benefits of quitting smoking can be seen almost immediately. For example, your heart rate and blood pressure will be back to normal within two hours. Within two to three weeks, your blood circulation and lung function should improve enough that exercising or engaging in physically strenuous activity will be noticeably easier.

The traditional thinking was that quitting smoking could threaten sobriety by increasing the intensity of a recovering substance abuser’s cravings for drugs and alcohol. Today, we know this is simply not true. Quitting smoking will not threaten your recovery and may even be beneficial if you’re suffering from alcoholism and strongly associate drinking with smoking cigarettes.

Since nicotine is an addictive substance, the process of quitting smoking is much like conquering alcohol or drug addiction. Use of nicotine replacement therapy via patch, gum, inhaler, or nasal spray can help keep your nicotine cravings under control. The same coping techniques you learn in recovery to handle cravings for drugs or alcohol can also be used to manage nicotine withdrawal.

Stress Relief and Addiction Recovery

For many people, smoking cigarettes is seen as a way to cope with stress. While it’s true that the experience of getting sober can be stressful, this doesn’t mean that you can’t quit smoking if you wish to do so. To some extent, stress will always be a part of your life. Even when you’re sober, you’ll be dealing with stress in your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers or supervisors.

Quitting smoking while in rehab may give you a chance to come up with healthier ways to handle stressful feelings, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, listening to music, or writing about your feelings in a journal. This experience will leave you feeling more confident and in control of your sobriety after your time at the treatment center has passed.

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

Nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant, which is why fear of gaining weight is common among people who are interested in quitting smoking. However, this fear is misguided. The vast majority of people who quit smoking gain no more than five to 10 pounds.

If you’re currently malnourished due to your drug or alcohol addiction, gaining a small amount of weight may be beneficial. If you are already at the right weight for your frame, making a point to exercise regularly and avoid overindulging in sweets or processed foods can help prevent any weight gain related to quitting smoking. Experts agree that fear of weight gain shouldn’t be a deciding factor in whether or not you attempt to quit smoking while in recovery.

Quitting Is a Process

If you’ve tried to quit smoking unsuccessfully in the past, you may think it’s not worth the effort to try again. However, quitting smoking is often a process that requires several attempts to be successful.

A study recently published in BMJ Open suggests that it can take up to 30 attempts for smokers to go for one full year without cigarettes. Often, what works best is when a smoker has a powerful and personal reason to want to quit. Seeking treatment for your alcohol or drug addiction and making the decision to begin a fresh chapter in your life may be the mental “push” you need to kick the habit for good.

Choosing the Approach that Works Best for You

There is no one size fits all treatment approach for addiction. If you desire an opportunity to make a completely fresh start, St. Joseph Institute can help you quit smoking at the same time you address your alcohol or drug addiction. However, if you would prefer to focus on overcoming one addiction at a time, our counselors can help you develop a treatment plan that works for your unique needs.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website.

Print pagePDF pageEmail page