In 12 Step Groups it is often recommended that newcomers avoid making any major life changes in the first year of recovery. This is sensible advice, because the individual will already have enough going on at this time without adding additional stress. Once people are firmly set in their recovery, they will be better able to handle major life changes.
Sometimes, people in recovery may find themselves in a position where they need to make changes right away. They just can’t afford to wait until they have a year of sobriety under their belt. In such situations, it is recommended that the individual gets plenty of support. Major life changes can put a strain on people in early recovery, and the risk is that they might relapse.
The major life changes that people should avoid making in the first year of recovery include:
* Starting a new romance
* Getting divorced
* Moving house
* Changing career
* Going on long trips
* Having a baby
* Launching a small business
* Taking on added responsibilities, such as a job promotion
There are some valid reasons why people should avoid making major life changes in early recovery including:
* The first year of sober living can be stressful enough already. Moving from addiction to sobriety is an adjustment, and so any further stress could overwhelm the individual.
* It takes people a few years to adjust to life away from addiction. It can take them a bit of time to discover who they really are and what they want out of life. This means that any major decisions they make in early recovery can be things they later regret. It is hard for people to make good choices when they have not really decided who they are yet.
* Potentially, the riskiest thing that people can do in the first few months of recovery is begin a romance. This will be too much of a distraction and it will mean entering the relationship at a time when that person is highly vulnerable. It can be particularly hazardous if the individual becomes involved with another person in recovery. They could be putting both their futures at risk. During the first year of sobriety it is vital that staying sober is given priority over everything. The risk of beginning a romance early in recovery is that it can become a way of avoiding reality, an addiction substitute that can lead back to the real thing.
* When people make a big change in their life, it demands a great deal of their attention. There will be the temptation to allow their recovery to take a back seat. The individual may even stop thinking altogether about their sobriety. This is a dangerous situation. People can often choose these changes to their life as a way of avoiding the real challenges of their recovery.
The advice to avoid making major life changes in the first year of recovery is valid, but it is not always practical. Even the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous did not follow this suggestion. During his first year of sobriety, AA founder Bill W. changed jobs, moved home, became a sponsor, went on long trips alone and created a fellowship. Life happens, and sometimes people need to make decisions even when it may be inconvenient to do so. The suggestion is really that people avoid making unnecessary major life changes. It will be up to them to decide what is necessary and what is unnecessary.
There are some major life choices that are thrust upon people. If the individual is still in early recovery, then it is best that they seek support when implementing such change. These are some of the most effective types of support:
* If people belong to a recovery fellowship and are moving to a different location they should find a new home group right away. Ideally, they should attend a meeting even before they unpack the first box in their new home. Moving house is the most stressful thing that people can do, so a great deal of support is often necessary. There is also the risk that if people do not find a new group right away, they could stop attending the meetings altogether.
* A therapist can be a great resource for people who are making major changes in their life. This professional will be able to listen and where appropriate offer advice.
* Those people who have a sponsor should find that this person is a great resource when making life changes. Even if the sponsor is unable to offer practical advice, they can still be useful as an emotional support.
* If the individual begins to feel that their recovery is in danger, they need to take immediate action. This could include attending extra fellowship meetings or speaking to somebody who understands the situation. When thoughts of relapse occur, it is usually a sign that something is wrong. It is never a good idea to ignore these warnings. Thoughts of relapse tend to crop up when people are making major changes to their life.
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