Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
early stages of recovery
December 30, 2019

What Happens in the Early Stages of Recovery?

If you’ve decided to get help for a substance abuse disorder, you probably have a lot of questions on your mind. It can help you feel more confident to enter treatment if you already have some ideas of what the journey has in store for you. The early stages of recovery aren’t identical for everyone, but there are a variety of commonalities you can prepare for.


The initial detoxification period is what stops most people trying to overcome addiction on their own. Trying to quit drugs or alcohol cold turkey almost always fails because withdrawal symptoms will thwart even the best intentions of getting clean.

There are serious risks associated with trying to detox without medical supervision. Detoxing from some drugs can even be fatal if the addiction is severe enough. For the best chance at success, you will need to participate in a detox program where medical professionals can monitor your progress 24/7 and administer medication, if needed, to make the process as comfortable as possible.

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms occur when the removal of drugs or alcohol destabilizes the neurochemical balance in your brain. The symptoms you experience in the early stages of recovery will depend on the substance you have abused, but these are common to nearly every type of withdrawal:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Depression
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting

These acute withdrawal symptoms can be intense, although detox professionals can prescribe medications to help minimize them and keep you committed to staying on track with your recovery.

The length of withdrawal depends on the substance of misuse. Opioid withdrawal, for example, can begin six to 12 hours after the last use for a short-acting opioid like heroin or up to 30 hours after the final use of a long-acting opioid like methadone.

Generally, acute withdrawal symptoms are most severe around 72 hours after the last use of the substance, and persist for one or two weeks.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle in the Early Stages of Recovery

Substance abuse has robbed you of so much, including your physical and mental health. It’s a crucial part of the early stages of recovery, then, to learn how to take good care of yourself again.

Exercise is an excellent starting point, especially if you haven’t been physically active for quite some time. Don’t expect to have the stamina to run long distances at the beginning. Add lighter-intensity exercise, such as walks around your neighborhood, then gradually ramp up to more challenging activities as you build your cardio capacity.

Eating regular, balanced meals is another critical component of your successful recovery, since failure to eat nutritious foods will jeopardize your sobriety by leaving you more vulnerable to cravings.

Rebuilding Relationships

As painful as it may be to acknowledge, your addiction likely took its toll on everyone around you. Escalating substance abuse causes relationships to deteriorate. You have probably said or done things that hurt friends and family members, and an essential component of your success in early recovery is to rebuild those strained relationships.

You must prepare yourself for the idea that salvaging your relationships is not always an easy process, and some people you’ve hurt or angered may not be willing to welcome you back with open arms. However, the relationships you can rebuild will form the backbone of your sober support system in the early stages of recovery.

Making new, sober friends who are also in recovery can be helpful as well. One way to do this is to take advantage of addiction resources like 12-step meetings. Regularly attending addiction support groups is an ideal way to help you maintain your commitment to recovery.

Coping With Emotions

Long-term abuse of drugs or alcohol often has its roots in a desire to dull or repress unwanted emotions. However, once these substances are no longer part of your life, you will likely have a flood of unresolved emotions to begin working through.

With the newfound clarity that accompanies sobriety, you may find yourself remembering the “bad old days” of your behavior when drinking or using, and have to rebuild your self-esteem.

Stress and the emotions that accompany it, such as fear and anger, can be significant relapse triggers because they often lead to powerful cravings. You can learn healthy coping mechanisms and tools to manage your emotions by regularly meeting with a therapist.

How to Get Help for an Addiction

If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, there is hope for you. With treatment, it is possible you can make a full recovery and learn to manage the disease of addiction for the long term. At Beach House, our team of experienced addiction professionals provide a full continuum of evidence-based care that helps build the foundation for lasting sobriety. Contact us today to speak with one of our admissions counselors.