Most individuals entering recovery from substance abuse or addiction to various behaviors are well aware that life isn\u2019t going to be a breeze for the first few months or so. If you\u2019re about to enter or have just entered recovery, you\u2019re probably pretty familiar with the litany of pitfalls that you might encounter. What you may not know, however, is how to avoid them. Here are some common sense ways to get past recovery pitfalls. Running into Old Friends Who Use Your counselors drilled this one into your head: You can\u2019t be around people, places or things associated with your past substance use. Easy enough to say, but hard to do. What happens if you work with these individuals, or they live next door, or are part of your family\u2019s social group? You\u2019ll need to be creative, in some instances, in order to steer clear of anyone that can re-ignite your desire to use. How do you do that? How can you avoid running into old friends who use? After all, it\u2019s a free country and people can come and go pretty much as they please. Even if you go out of your way to avoid them, you may still bump into them in the grocery store, at your son\u2019s football game, at church, the beach, even hiking the neighborhood trails. The truth is that you may not be able to avoid them at all times. But you can arm yourself with effective things to say when these old friends invite you to hang out, party, or use. Say something like, \u201cI\u2019m 30-days sober and I\u2019m going to stay that way,\u201d or \u201cIt\u2019s good to see you again. You know I\u2019m in Alcoholics Anonymous (or Narcotics Anonymous) and sobriety is a top priority with me.\u201d After a while, these old friends will stop coming around or calling. Your continued sobriety will be like an affront to them. They may want to quit themselves, but don\u2019t really want to go through the trouble. Maybe it once was fun to try to get you back into using \u2013 hey, misery loves company \u2013 but now the novelty has worn off. They\u2019d much rather continue their self-destructive behavior without being reminded that you made it to sobriety. And you can\u2019t make someone else want to be sober. They have to want to do it themselves. Nightmares and Sleepless Nights There\u2019s nothing worse than not being able to sleep for nights on end due to nightmares or other causes. A restless night\u2019s sleep is just as bad, in many cases, as not being able to sleep at all. Either way, you aren\u2019t physically rested for the next day. When you\u2019re tired, you\u2019re more irritable, anxious, prone to making mistakes, and much more likely to gravitate toward alcohol or drugs again. Will having a few beers make it easier for you to sleep? Is going off your sobriety worth taking that beer out of the refrigerator? You know you won\u2019t be able to stop at just one, so why bother? Nightmares and sleepless nights may be caused by an underlying medical condition that is either connected with your prior substance use or is entirely separate. A better solution to overcome the pitfall of nightmares and sleepless nights is to discuss the fact of your inability to sleep with your primary physician. Be sure he or she knows you are in recovery for alcohol or drug addiction. If you have continuing care or aftercare as part of your rehab program, get in touch with your counselor and see what can be done to help you. It could be that a few sessions with the therapist may be all you need to ditch those nightmares and sleepless nights for good. Anxiety and Depression There will be times in recovery when things just don\u2019t seem to go as well as you\u2019d like. This is common and nothing to be overly concerned with. However, that doesn\u2019t mean you shouldn\u2019t do something about these feelings. If you are anxious or depressed for an extended period of time and these emotions are causing you problems in your daily life \u2013 and threatening your sobriety \u2013 you definitely need to get some help to overcome them. Anxiety and depression can be treated with medications and counseling. Just as with the pitfall of nightmares and sleepless nights, discuss what\u2019s going on with you with your doctor and\/or your therapist. Together, you should be able to arrive at a constructive plan to help you get past these troubling emotions before they do damage to your sobriety. Cravings That Won\u2019t Go Away Cravings are unpredictable. Some come and go quickly enough and many seem to be confined to the early days of recovery. Don\u2019t be surprised, however, if you experience cravings to use many months after you\u2019ve been in effective recovery. Cravings can strike anytime, anywhere. In fact, they often come out of the blue, so to speak. You see or hear something and it brings back that old desire to use. You can\u2019t help the fact that cravings occur, but you can do something constructive about them. When you experience a craving, practice some of the coping mechanisms you learned about during treatment. Use distraction, vigorous physical exercise, meditation, deep breathing, reading, counting \u2013 whatever works, use it. If you still have trouble, call up your 12-step sponsor and talk it out. Go to a meeting and get support and encouragement from your fellow 12-step group members. It\u2019s often said that cravings generally last 15 to 20 minutes. That\u2019s not a long time to deal with. So, if you can get past that timeframe, whatever it is in your case, you\u2019ll be a) over the craving, b) better equipped to deal with cravings the next time they occur, and c) feel more confident in your ability to overcome cravings. Taking On Too Much Too Soon We all want to get back to our normal lives as soon as possible in recovery. That\u2019s what real recovery is to most individuals, anyway, being able to resume everyday activities. What you may not think about, however, is that you\u2019re like a long-distance runner that\u2019s just starting out after being sidelined with an injury. You\u2019re not up to the all-out pace right now. It\u2019s better to ease off on some of the more demanding aspects of your former life \u2013 or even restructure your life so that you have different obligations you need to deal with on a daily basis. You may wish to consider getting a less demanding job or transferring to a different department. Talk with your boss about gradually adding to your workload \u2013 after you reassure him or her that you are committed to your sobriety and are eager to rejoin the workforce and do your best job. Don\u2019t worry about being left behind for a promotion or a plum assignment. If you work yourself into a frazzle, you\u2019ll not be your best and you\u2019ll surely jeopardize your hard-won sobriety. As you become more accustomed to life in recovery, you will be able to add more responsibility to your plate. Your boss will see how well you handle things and will be more amenable to giving you the opportunity to succeed. Isolation When you first come home from treatment, a normal reaction is to want to curl up in bed and stay there for some period of time. It\u2019s all too new, your emotions are still raw, and you\u2019re worried about your ability to do all the things you\u2019ve been taught during treatment about how to stay clean and sober. In order to avoid seeing the people, places and things that caused you to use in the past, you opt to hibernate at home, only going out for work and bare necessities. This is decidedly the wrong approach for several reasons. Not only does isolation keep you stunted, growth-wise, it also allows you to have too much time on your hands. Intrusive thoughts and cravings find places to roost when you\u2019ve only got yourself and four walls to contend with. And you know from your past substance use that you\u2019re not always your own best counsel. Buck the desire to stick it out at home by going to 12-step meetings, as a start. These are safe places to go and you\u2019ll be surrounded by people who understand what you\u2019re going through. They\u2019ll offer encouragement and support in a non-judgmental way. You can also join groups where you can make some new friends. This is healthy and exposes you to a world beyond your normal environs. Check out recreational groups, maybe some that go on cross-country ski trips or regularly go downhill skiing. If you like to flyfish, join a flyfishing club. Get involved in cooking classes, or go back to school to learn a language, get or finish a degree. These are just a few examples of places where you can meet new people who may become friends. Shutting Out Your Family It may be tough facing the people who love you most \u2013 your family. But you do yourself a huge injustice \u2013 and threaten your recovery \u2013 if you fall into the trap of shutting your family out. The two most important components of your support network are your family and your 12-step group. Your family members may have become estranged due to your addiction. Maybe you caused them a great deal of harm and that precipitated the separation. Maybe some of them still use and that\u2019s part of the problem. While you can\u2019t be around someone who uses, even if it is a family member, surely there are some family members who don\u2019t use. In other words, you do have loved ones who care about you and with whom you should be sharing a relationship. How do you rekindle family relationships that have been strained? How do you reconnect with them after treatment? What should you say or do? There\u2019s no guidebook that has all the answers. Much of what you do and say will depend on your personal circumstances. The best advice is to start slow. Don\u2019t expect too much from your family members. Allow them time to adjust to having you back home. You may not feel like talking about your treatment and you may still have problems communicating. Give it time. Try your best and let them know that you love them and want to do all you can to live in sobriety. Skipping 12-Step Meetings Just because you attended 12-step meetings for a short period of time doesn\u2019t mean that you should discontinue your participation. Sure, you can stop going to meetings on a regular basis, but that\u2019s going against the recommendations of your therapist and contrary to what all the experts say. What\u2019s so important about attending 12-step meetings? This is like your extended family, and is comprised of individuals who are committed to their sobriety just as you are. The benefit of continued participation in 12-step meetings is that you get more confident in your own ability to sustain long-term recovery. Whatever situation or crisis occurs in your life, someone else in the group has also been there and can offer encouragment and talk about what worked to help them get through the rough patch. Many in recovery continue to go to regular 12-step meetings years after they first began their recovery journey. They regard it as healthy maintenance on one hand, as well as an opportunity to give back to others. Beating Yourself Up for Your Past Everyone in recovery has something in their past that causes them pain. It could be that you did something so awful that you lost your family, your job, your home, all your savings, or injured or killed another as a result of your addiction. There\u2019s certainly no shortage of reasons to feel bad about what may have happened in the past. But beating yourself up about those actions you took in the past will do nothing to help sustain your recovery. On the contrary, when you\u2019re stuck in the past, you\u2019re not moving forward. Blame of any sort is counter-productive to healing. You have to acknowledge what you did and make amends and move past it. You\u2019ll learn more about these things by going through the 12 Steps. Once you let go of the past, a great burden will be lifted from your shoulders. In essence, you\u2019ll have a clean slate. You\u2019ll be free to choose how you will live your life in sobriety unhampered by painful memories of past thoughts, words and deeds. Blaming Others for Your Situation Are you bitter over something that happened when you were addicted to substances, something that someone else did or said that you feel harmed you? What purpose does blaming others for your situation (that you were fired, lost your spouse, went bankrupt, went to jail, etc.) hold now? Blame is like cancer: it spreads and destroys everything in its path. If you hold onto blame, your recovery goes nowhere. Getting rid of the tendency to blame others means that you have to accept responsibility for your own actions. Stop thinking that others put you in this situation. No one forced you to use substances, engage in compulsive gambling or sex or other process addictions. You chose your actions \u2013 just as today you choose sobriety. If you find yourself harboring feelings of blame, get some counseling. Talk with your 12-step sponsor and your spouse or loved ones. Don\u2019t keep these feelings bottled up inside. They\u2019ll only hamper your recovery. Feeling Overconfident About Your Recovery What about when life is really going good? This is a terrific outcome and one to be appreciated \u2013 but not taken for granted. The danger and a common pitfall is to become overconfident about your recovery. When this happens, you tend to slack off your routine, skip meetings, feel like you can tackle anything, and take on too much. You may become too self-absorbed or stop taking care of yourself. Remember that you are in recovery. You will always be in recovery. This means that you exercise good judgment and keep doing the things that help you sustain your long-term sobriety. It\u2019s good to feel good about where you are in your recovery and to gain increasing self-confidence and self-esteem. Just remember that, in order to keep your life of sobriety moving forward, you need to maintain vigilance, expand your horizons, and continue to fill your life with purpose and joy and love.