Maintaining your recovery from substance abuse or addiction can be both deeply rewarding and challenging. Your first year in recovery is often the most volatile as you begin to undo the neural wiring your brain has grown to link using your drug of choice with all of your day-to-day activities. Here are five ways you can help your brain reorganize to prioritize living a happier, healthier and fuller life your first year in recovery.

  1. Get to know your triggers, sober. One of the first things you’ll do when you enter recovery is start to identify what kinds of people, places, experiences and even objects that trigger you to use your drug of choice. The life you build for yourself in recovery will need to either cut our or re-imagine entirely your relationships with things that once made you want to use.
  1. Relax, don’t turn off. Everyone needs a little downtime now and again to recharge their batteries. When you’re feeling like you need a break, take a few moments check in with yourself and try to get a sense of what’s really going on and what you need. Watching TV mindlessly for a few hours may make your anxiety feel more distant, but if you actually address what’s bothering you the issue could be fixed entirely.
  1. Do something new with old friends. There will likely be some people in your life whom you love deeply, but that you moved away from in pursuit of your using life. If your friends are able to stick with you as you leave drugs behind, seize this opportunity to create a new ritual together like eating your favorite cuisine or taking a walk outdoors.
  1. Explore new places. When people think about getting away from it all, they often think of eloping to Europe or another foreign country. If you truly want to see new sights and get some fresh air you probably don’t have to go too far. If you live in or near a city there are likely dozens of museums and shops you’ve never seen before; if you live in a rural area, there are wonderful natural resources to discover from hiking trails to hot springs.
  1. Celebrate small victories. There’s more in your life to celebrate than the number of days you’ve been sober. Start counting down the days until you get to see someone you care about, whether it’s a close friend or family member. Alternatively, count the number of times you’ve stood up for yourself, or count the new things you’re doing with the time you’re not high. A big part of being in recovery is about having control over your life; remember to enjoy it.

The actions you take in your recovery can change your brain in positive ways. By being present with yourself while actively seeking out new experiences without the aid of drugs or alcohol, you won’t just be undoing detrimental neural connections; you’ll have new experiences to push the old, hurtful ones far back in your memory.