8 Common Obstacles People May Face in Early Recovery

Challenges that individuals may go through in the early stages of the addiction recovery process

During the early recovery process, it’s natural for individuals to face obstacles that could get in the way of their sobriety. To properly overcome these obstacles and continue on with their journey, people in the beginning stages of recovery need to be able to identify common challenges and potential triggers when they arise.


The Impact of Quitting on the Body & Mind

It is inevitable for people to approach some challenges as they begin their recovery journey.  Being newly sober comes with many temptations along the way. When someone stops using after making substances a big part of their life, everything will change rather quickly. Their body will start to feel different, their mental health may be affected, they’ll need to fill their time in new ways, and they may have to start spending time with different people. Not only does a person’s body need to adjust after they stop using substances, but their mind needs to get used to all the changes. Mental recovery after substance abuse usually takes longer than physical recovery.

Essentially, recovery requires a shift in lifestyle. This lifestyle adjustment is an ongoing process, and it won’t just happen overnight. The challenges that come with early recovery can be very difficult to deal with and could ultimately result in relapse if not handled or treated properly.


Most Common Challenges in Early Recovery

Challenges during early sobriety serve as tests for a person’s recovery. Here are some of the most common obstacles people may face in the beginning stages of recovery:


Dealing with emotions

When someone who has an addiction feels upset or overwhelmed, they will typically turn to their substance of choice to mask their emotions. People who are in recovery have to learn to deal with their emotions in other ways.


Depression and anxiety

Since it comes with many emotional highs and lows, the early stage of the recovery process may affect a person’s mental health. Many people who are newly sober experience feelings of depression and anxiety.


Withdrawal symptoms

During the first few days of recovery, individuals may experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms, which vary depending on the person, are the body’s response to no longer having substances in the system.


Relationship changes

Addiction can cause strains in friendships and family relationships. As part of the early recovery process, both parties must work together to strengthen any parts of their relationship that may have been broken. Similarly, many people make connections before or during their substance abuse that may not be beneficial for their recovery. It is important to discontinue those relationships when sober.


Dating and romance

While dating can be a fun way to keep one’s mind off of their recovery, romance can actually get in the way of a person’s sobriety. During early recovery, all of a person’s attention must be on staying sober. A romantic relationship may distract a newly sober person from their goals and their recovery journey.


Social gatherings

Going to social gatherings that involve alcohol or drug use can be very triggering for a person who is newly sober. If a person in early recovery tags along to the bar with a friend, they may be tempted to get a drink while they’re there.


Being bored

People who are newly sober may realize that they have more time on their hands. This is mainly because they aren’t spending their time obtaining or using substances. When someone with an addiction gets bored, they use substances to occupy themselves. A person in recovery has to fill their time in other ways.



Cravings are a natural and practically inevitable part of the early recovery process. There will be many times where someone who is newly sober feels tempted to use again. In order to resist, they need to know how to push these cravings aside.


How to Overcome Recovery Obstacles

It may be hard to overcome the challenges above during recovery, but it is definitely possible. Below are some tactics that newly sober people can use to fight obstacles and cravings:

  • Utilize coping skills learned in treatment
  • Take it one moment at a time and stay in the present
  • Have an exit strategy if you go somewhere triggering
  • Try to rebuild connections with supportive people
  • Stay out of romantic relationships for one year
  • Pay attention to risk factors for relapse
  • Start and keep a feelings journal
  • Celebrate sobriety milestones
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Not all of these tactics work for everyone who is in early recovery, but they are worth trying when emotions are high or in moments of uncertainty. People who are working on their sobriety should always pay attention to their thoughts and behaviors, continue to work on themselves through therapy and self care, remember how far they have come, and rely on their support system when they feel like they need help.

Our team of substance abuse treatment representatives offers the tools to help people overcome any challenges that might get in their way during early recovery. For information about our programs and offerings, give us a call at 866-345-2147.