The first vital step for a person struggling with addiction issues is to enter a good, licensed detoxification program. This initial detox phase gives a person a fighting chance to begin their recovery on good footing as they gradually distance themselves from their substance of choice and into a structured recovery environment. It is indeed fortunate when a person begins the first steps on this healing journey – for some, that passageway may regrettably never commence in time to afford a person the opportunity of freeing themselves from the prison of addiction. However, just as we apply the wisdom of taking one day at a time and grasping the importance of each moment and day in recovery - the same is true for understanding the significance of each individual -- namely you -- beginning their first few days of sobriety and living clean.

Are the first days easy – no, they are not. In fact, I completely remember the first seven days of my own detox in a hospital. Even with the wonderful care I received from doctors and counselors, and support and love from my wife and close family and friends - my body, mind and soul were challenged to the very core of my existence. The first days in recovery detox were the hardest of my entire life. Suffice it to say, I was a mess and almost did not make it into a hospital to begin this needed process of removing myself from the grip of alcohol addiction. Now when I look back at those beginning days in recovery I can sincerely assert that this period was the dawning of a wonderful new life that continues to this day.

This blog posting is devoted to anyone that is experiencing day one, day two, day three and staying strong toward completing their first week. Receiving encouragement, care and compassion from others is essential. However, it may be difficult or impossible to turn to our closest love ones and expect the support we truly need during this first stage. We most likely created considerable pain for those around us prior to entering a recovery program and mistrust, anger, and hurt may be the emotions we will encounter from family and friends. There will probably be a disinclination from family and friends to want to even associate with us during the first days and weeks. Although this will be painful for us to accept at first, we must try to understand that this too is part of the path to sobriety and rebuilding our life. We cannot blame them for being wary and it will take time to heal all of our relationships and the damage done by our addiction.

That is again why it is vital for us to receive support from our recovery groups – people who have walked in your shoes and truly know what you’re going through -- as this is where the real work begins – sharing, listening and giving back. From the numbness we inadvertently brought upon ourselves through drinking and using, we gradually regain our own feelings and emotions, gaining empathy for ourselves and for others. Often the missing key ingredient in our lives that may have contributed to our excessive using and drinking is love and compassion in and around our life. Again -- the support we so vitally need is in recovery groups – go to meetings! The professional counselors will help guide you, one day at a time, towards discovering your true self again. In addition, the understanding we receive from others who are in the exact same ‘boat’ as you, will be a wonderful complimentary force to finding your physical, mental and spiritual health again. 

It may be challenging for anyone in our life’s circle to fully comprehend the nature of addiction and alcoholism. Your own condition may be very difficult to accept by those that are close to you. Some people, who do not have any type of substance abuse issues, may be grappling with their ability to understand the nature of addiction and the reasons for it. The common charge we have heard so often is, “why can’t you just stop using or drinking?” Others may have some ensuing ‘issues’ they may be attempting to deny, and often will try it distance themselves from your abuse instead of looking at their own life. Let’s face it, there is often great embarrassment within ourselves and others when our addiction issue comes to light. However, embarrassment is a small price to pay for opening our life’s possibilities to becoming healthy and free again. I will fully assert here that one should never be embarrassed by their addiction, and gradually the world we live in will grow considerably more understanding to the multitude of reasons why someone, anyone, can become addicted to alcohol and drugs. I want to say with confidence that not only should there NOT be any embarrassment when someone begins on the pathway to sobriety and living clean but, one should be congratulated for this courageous decision. If you are 16 years old or 70 years old, you have your life in front of you – time is not the vital factor of how we live each day, each hour, or each moment. It is our awareness of the present and allowing our feelings to be experienced fully that will determine our true quality of life.

We will learn in the early days of recovery how to open and experience the present moment. We no longer will need to numb the feelings we have as we will gradually learn to accept the ups and downs of life as being a normal part of life. We will learn that each time we used or drank to suppress our sentiments and moods, it was an action that translated to our own inner mind that we cannot handle our emotions that we cannot handle life. But, we truly can and will come to realize that this is what being human is all about. We were never meant to suppress life, flee from life or numb ourselves from all that life entails. A person addicted to drugs and alcohol, is actually subjecting himself or herself to so much more hurt, pain and suffering than if they just allowed themselves to live without using and realized that the fear of feeling emotions (good and ‘bad’) is just that – a fear. Share these emotions in your meetings and see the heads nodding in understanding, a hand reaching toward you to touch your shoulder in friendship and encouragement.  We’ll talk more about feeling emotions in future blogs – especially with the holidays approaching.

So, I encourage anyone that is using and abusing themselves today with alcohol and drugs, to consider taking that first step towards recovery. There is abundant help for you and it is just a phone call away. You will be welcomed with understanding and compassion. And for those individuals that have taken that step and are now in their first days of sobriety and living clean, I applaud your actions. You are in the best place you can be. I urge you to work through the challenges of each day and to progress into week two, then week three and then a month and beyond. It takes courage, compassion and as I say in the opening of this blog page, it takes help from others. Your life is worth it, you are worth it and you deserve to live the rest of your life free from alcohol and drugs. Until next time . . . stay strong, clean, and sober.