Managing Expectations in Early Sobriety

Once we have completed inpatient substance abuse treatment and have settled into our sober homes and our new routines, it is common for us to begin forming inflated expectations of what our lives will quickly become and how others will perceive and interact with us now that we are sober. While there is nothing wrong with establishing goals in life, there is a clear and important difference between a goal and an expectation. Expectations are demands we place on the world around us, whereas goals are circumstances we strive to achieve in life. It is crucial we appropriately manage our expectations in early sobriety, as the resulting disappointment from those demands we place on the world which go unmet could easily lead us to relapse.

One of the most common expectations we develop in early sobriety is that our close family and friends will suddenly have an attitude of gratitude and appreciation for our sobriety just as much as we do ourselves. While they will surely be pleased with our transition into recovery, it is hardly reasonable to expect them to set aside those resentments and negative feelings borne from our bad behavior in active addiction at the first signs of our willingness to live in sobriety. Rather than expect those relationships to become healed as if by magic as a result of our having chosen sobriety, instead respect the process as dictated by the twelve steps of recovery and set the reasonable goal of completing your 9th step amends process within the first 6 months of your recovery. By choosing to make this goal instead of the expectation, you retain responsibility for your part in the process while acknowledging the outcome is not within your control. This is a safer and healthier outlook to take when it comes to your relationships with others in early recovery.

Another common expectation formed in early recovery is that now that we are sober all the problems created in our active addiction will simply resolve themselves as a result of our sobriety. This could not be further from the truth - while active addiction is no longer our reality, the financial and legal problems created during our substance abuse continue to exist in our new sober lives and must be handled appropriately. Simply expecting the courts or banks to acknowledge we are no longer in active addiction and, therefore, all should be forgiven, is a perspective rooted more in fantasy than in reality. It can be tempting to take this stance, however, as a means to avoid the stress and anxiety that comes from facing such problems head on. Just as it was difficult and uncomfortable to admit defeat and accept the help of a treatment center, so too is it difficult but necessary to face the wreckage of our past and deal with it. When it comes to financial issues, setting reasonable goals is once again a great way to alleviate economic concerns in our lives. As for legal issues, these can be daunting to say the least, but now that you are sober you can face them with all your mental faculties intact while trusting the process and advice of your legal counsel. Above all else, have faith that your higher power has your best interests at heart, and whatever happens will be for the best in the long run.

It can be tempting to place great expectations on the world once we begin living in sobriety as opposed to active addiction. You may feel a sense of entitlement as a result of your making the decision to get sober, thinking this sacrifice on your part deserves praise and adulation from the world around you. This is a dangerous perspective to entertain, as our lives in early recovery can rarely be described as problem-free. Instead of assigning expectations to your surroundings, formulate realistic goals for yourself in early sobriety. As you continue on your journey of recovery, achieving these goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and reassurance that you are on the right path. This is a much healthier outlook to maintain on life, and one which is more in line with the twelve steps of recovery, therefore serving you well as you continue to strive for long term sobriety.

If you are ready to take this first step, whether you are still in residential treatment or have recently completed treatment, call our Admissions Counselors today at

833-818-3031 and continue building on your progress in recovery.