Treatment\u2019s over \u2013 yippee! Before you rush out and entangle yourself in some questionable activities or hang out with so-called friends you used to use with, think about what you may be jeopardizing. Sure, treatment for your addiction was a huge undertaking \u2013 and probably a lot more than you ever imagined. But that part is over. And, while you should be proud of your accomplishment, this isn\u2019t a time for you to slack off. In fact, it\u2019s vitally important that you take time \u2013 however much is required \u2013 to make time for your recovery. The First Few Months are Critical While you were in the last phase of your active treatment, you went through relapse prevention training. Here you learned coping skills and techniques to help you avoid slipping back into your old pre-treatment habits. In your enthusiasm to be out of treatment and back in the real world, you may have forgotten some of the things you learned \u2013 especially the fact that the first few months of recovery are the most critical. It\u2019s during the first 6 to 9 months that most relapses occur. What causes relapse? There are many reasons, really. Some are predictable, while others seem to come out of the blue. Suffice to say, if you aren\u2019t fully committed to your recovery, if you take it for granted, you\u2019re almost sure to succumb to powerful cravings and urges that will likely plague you in the weeks and months ahead. Ditto if you have the mistaken belief that relapse is inevitable, that there\u2019s nothing you can do about it, or that it will only be a brief hiatus and you\u2019ll get back on the road to recovery like nothing happened. It doesn\u2019t work that way. Once you relapse, there are consequences. Some will be minor, and the addict will be able to resume a clean and sober lifestyle with renewed vigor and determination. For those lucky ones, perhaps the brush with the reality of just how precarious their newfound sobriety is enough to jolt them into a more solid commitment to being clean and sober. Others, however, are not so fortunate. For some intractable, hard-core addicts for whom treatment was more like going through the motions, relapse is more likely than not. This doesn\u2019t mean that all hard-core will stay relapsed once they slip. On the contrary, many do succeed in recovery. But it generally takes a great deal of effort, persistence, support and ongoing counseling. Whatever your addiction and personal circumstances are, the first thing to remember about early recovery is that the next half to three-quarters of a year is the most important. It\u2019s during this time that you will solidify what works for you and discard what does not. You will likely need to make many changes in your life \u2013 some of which you\u2019d much rather not, but which are necessary. You will make new friends, discover much about yourself and your abilities that you never realized, and find a wealth of opportunities within your reach. How Much Time Is Necessary? Making time for your recovery naturally leads to the question of how much time is necessary. Just what is entailed in taking time to make time for your recovery? The answer is different for everyone. It really depends on your personal circumstances, type of addiction, your motivation to succeed in recovery, and the choices you make. Some who are new to recovery just came off treatment for a dependence that was only a recent occurrence, or to a substance that had become a daily ritual without leading to major consequences. It could be marijuana, or a dependence on nonmedical use of prescription drugs. For these individuals, if they are highly motivated, have sound support and encouragement from friends and family, recovery may be a lot easier. True, they will always be in recovery \u2013 unless they slip \u2013 but the healthy behaviors they will need to adopt and the new clean and sober lifestyle will be easier to incorporate and manage. For addicts whose addiction caused extreme financial ruin, physical deterioration, loss of friends and family, vocational and\/or legal problems, or those with co-occurring disorders (substance abuse and mental health disorder), recovery may require a great deal more work and time in order to \u201ctake.\u201d Again, this is not to say that every addict who falls into this category will have a tough time of it. Many do not. Tips to Help You Make Time for Your Recovery Just as each addict\u2019s treatment is personalized and unique, so, too is each person\u2019s recovery. How and what you do will vary from one individual to another, from one day or week to another, and, possibly, from one type of addiction to another. Still, there are some general things that all addicts or individuals in recovery can do to help make time for their recovery. \u2022 Begin with a positive mindset. \u2013 How you perceive your time in early recovery has a lot to do with making that time a successful progression into solid recovery. The difference between early recovery and recovery that\u2019s 2 to 5 years old is time and experience. The more you can envision a positive outcome, the greater the likelihood that you will be able to weather some of the pitfalls and obstacles \u2013 as well as take advantage of serendipitous opportunities \u2013 that occur along the way. Start thinking of your life in sobriety as a glass half full, instead of a glass half empty. In other words, instead of thinking of what you\u2019ve missed out on, look at your new life as one in which you get to fill it up with whatever goals you want to achieve. Who\u2019s to say what you can and cannot do? Don\u2019t allow yourself to be limited in the scope of your dreams. Stay positive and stay on track. \u2022 Take things as they come. \u2013 Typical of early recovery for some individuals is a nagging uncertainty, anxiety, piling up of worries over real concerns or unknown fears. While it\u2019s important to deal with reality, with situations that can and do occur in everyday life, one of the best ways to take time to make time for your recovery is to focus on keeping things in perspective. Look at where you are today, at what you have to do today, and what is important today. Don\u2019t pile troubles \u2013 real or anticipated \u2013 up in your mind. They\u2019ll only fester and lead to more problems \u2013 sleepless nights, anxiety, depression, physical ills, or even relapse. Instead, take things as they come. Deal with a situation to the best of your ability as it presents itself. If you need help \u2013 counseling, financial assistance, more training, a change in medication \u2013 seek it as soon as possible. Let\u2019s say you want and need to mend a relationship and the prospect is not looking good. Do what you can now to make small improvements, little gestures, or take this as a sign that you will likely need more time to repair and rebuild this relationship. All good things take time. Don\u2019t rush it. Just do your best today - and every day. \u2022 Spend time with others who understand your situation. \u2013 Does it seem like no one understands what you\u2019re going through? This often happens to those in early recovery, especially when they look at their loved ones and closest friends. Everyone seems to be on their best behavior, afraid that if they look at you sideways or utter a cross word that you\u2019ll fly out the door and back into your alcohol or drug using ways. There\u2019s a solution for this, and it\u2019s a good one. Spend time with your 12-step sponsor and fellow group members. They each have been where you are right now \u2013 in early recovery. They know what an uncertain time it can be, how difficult certain decisions are, how frightening and terrible the future may seem, how afraid you may be of failure, even whether you\u2019ll be able to make it through today without picking up a bottle, going to the casino, or snorting, inhaling, injecting or swallowing drugs \u2013 or engaging in any of a number of addictive behaviors. The time you spend doesn\u2019t cost you a dime. The 12-step fellowships are free and the only requirement is a genuine commitment to being clean and sober. And, these individuals can prove to be a lifeline when you really need it most, when you feel you are drowning in despair, or can\u2019t fight the cravings and urges, maybe at 3:00 a.m. or after you\u2019ve just lost your job or your spouse walked out on you. By spending time with people who understand what it means to be an addict in early recovery, you are doing one of the most beneficial things you can do to make time for your recovery. \u2022 Start the day with a healthy meal. \u2013 In order to deal with daily challenges in early recovery, it\u2019s important that you get off to a good start. This means fortifying your body with nutritious food. No dashing out the door with just a mug of coffee or grabbing an espresso at the Starbucks. You need real food. It doesn\u2019t have to be a full, sit-down meal, but it should consist of fresh fruit, whole grain toast or cereal, maybe an egg or two and a bit of lean meat, or yogurt, fresh juice \u2013 you get the idea. When you eat a well-balanced breakfast, you have more energy for your body and your mind. You\u2019re better able to deal with little inconveniences and annoyances that might otherwise set you off. You can also think clearer, you\u2019re more alert and you can more easily solve problems. If your addiction has left you \u2013 even after treatment \u2013 with some medical conditions that require ongoing care and attention, it\u2019s even more important that you keep to a regular breakfast schedule. Muscles that have become atrophied, organs that are being nursed back to health, strength that needs to be regained \u2013 all take nourishment on a constant basis. One more point about starting the day with a healthy meal is that it makes you feel better. You\u2019ll be less likely to snack on unhealthy items (empty calories, too many carbohydrates, too much sugar) during the day and you\u2019ll be more likely to maintain a healthy weight. So, do yourself a favor. Take the time to eat a good breakfast. \u2022 Get involved in something new. \u2013 Early recovery is a great time to immerse yourself in learning something new. It could be taking up a hobby that you\u2019ve always been interested in but never had the time to learn. Maybe you want to study a foreign language, undertake training for a marathon, learn and perfect your skills at a recreational activity or competitive sport. Investigate what you need to do to get going on this new endeavor, and make the time to get involved in it. While you\u2019re learning something new, there\u2019s ample opportunity for you to make some new friends at the same time. After all, these are people you probably didn\u2019t know before you took up the hobby, went to the gym, studied at the university or community college, joined a cross-country ski club, or whatever. They don\u2019t know you from Adam, either. It\u2019s a perfect chance to brush up your communication skills and get outside of yourself and your everyday life to see what else is out there in the world. Who knows? This could open up new horizons for you, lead to many new discoveries that you can\u2019t even imagine now. It might be a new job, travel to different locales or countries, maybe even a new love interest. If nothing else, you will be expanding your intellectual, social, and emotional boundaries. You\u2019ll probably also find that you\u2019re having a lot of fun. When you take time to make time for your recovery by getting involved in something new, you\u2019re on your way to filling up that glass of possibilities. \u2022 Acknowledge your successes. \u2013 When you achieve a milestone, whether it\u2019s large or small, take the time to give yourself some credit for the achievement. This is especially important in early recovery when the days may seem endless, and the onslaught of cravings may come at you from every direction, or the bills mount up, or you\u2019re still trying to overcome the physical and mental ravages of a chronic addiction. When you reach your first week of being clean and sober in recovery, congratulate yourself. Mark it on your calendar. Make a journal entry where you write about how you feel. Do the same thing when you reach two weeks, a month, 6 months, 9 months, and the first year anniversary. Your 12-step sponsor and fellow members will help you celebrate in healthy ways \u2013 and encourage you to continue your success. You can also arrange a family get-together to celebrate your progress. Just be sure to keep it alcohol- and drug-free. If having a big to-do isn\u2019t your thing, or you don\u2019t feel you\u2019re strong enough yet to have so many people around (well-meaning though they may be), have a one-on-one celebration \u2013 maybe a romantic dinner \u2013 with your loved one. Little successes lead to big successes. Having a track record of months of sobriety will make it more likely that you will enjoy continued sobriety. So, take the time to give yourself the credit you deserve \u2013 and embrace tomorrow with hope and enthusiasm.