There are certain stages every recovering addict goes through, that people aren’t always familiar with in advance.
But information is key here as it might be what will give you hope when you need it the most. Knowing how your brain heals and what changes in your behavior are normal for addiction recovery, will make the process easier.
Let’s talk about how all this happens and what symptoms there are once drugs or alcohol aren’t a part of your life anymore.
Although you may know exactly how using your drug of choice makes your body feel, the real addiction usually happens in our brains. In fact, it’s often referred to as the brain disease.
As science has found out over the last few decades, this condition is chronic and a result of the prolonged effects of drugs on the brain.
Accepting this can help people look for the right kind of solutions, including biological, behavioral and social elements.
The Condition Every Recovering Addict Should Be Aware Of
There is one state of recovery few addicts are familiar with, before actually experiencing it.
When it happens, it’s so bad and like nothing they’ve ever seen before, that they are likely to go back to the old habit of using and give their body and brain the comfort they crave for.
Let’s talk about this condition.
That’s Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, and is what occurs right after you stop taking the drug you were addicted to.
The abuse of drugs or alcohol can lead to side effects that look like mental illness symptoms, and that can happen when you least expect it, and even when you consider yourself on your way to recovery.
Not being prepared for this isn’t a smart idea. Imagine it’s been more than a month since you said the final ‘no’ to your worst habit, and finally your life begins to look like a normal one, but then suddenly you start experiencing drug withdrawal symptoms that make you feel worse than before.
The stage of post-acute withdrawal is something almost anyone has to go through at some point, but is also something not many researchers have studied in details.
You can’t know what to expect, as the symptoms you’ll experience depend on what you’ve been using and for how long. Their severity can rarely be predicted too.
And even though when seeing such scenes of recovery in movies they don’t last long (could be a few days even, but that’s usually the acute withdrawals), in real life that can be months, or even years (these would be the post-acute withdrawals).
How Withdrawal Works
In order to experience withdrawal, you need to have gone through drug dependence. It could be physical, psychological, or both. The symptoms can be separated in these categories too.
To explain how exactly this condition works, I’ll use a metaphor that seems relevant.
If we assume our brain is a spring, then drugs would be the depressants pushing it down, thus stopping the production of certain neurotransmitters that are important to its proper functioning.
When you suddenly stop using, you release the barrier you created around the spring. Your brain then has to find a way to bounce back, and it does it by a rush of adrenaline, which is what causes the withdrawal symptoms.
Types of Symptoms
The emotional withdrawal indicators might be the following:
Inability to focus;
No motivation to do anything;
Feeling a void and being dissatisfied with life without drugs or alcohol;
Writing is what I love doing and I managed to turn it into my career. But that wouldn’t have been as enjoyable without having the freedom to work from anywhere and move to my favorite country. So after I became a freelance writer, I also took a few steps to become location independent.
Let me share how that journey looked like for me and maybe inspire you to take the leap and not just become a freelancer but also travel the world or just leave your home country and never look back.
Stage 1: Overcoming The Doubts
I believe all change happens on the inside first. In the case of becoming a freelance writer and a lifestyle designer, you’d first need to do a couple of things related to developing a strong mindset.
To begin with, define what you don’t like about your current lifestyle. Be clear about it and see yourself living a better life some time from now. This vision will also help you realize what you truly desire.
For me, it was freedom and independence but in a specific way.
I mean, I don’t really need to travel the world. It was enough to spend a few weeks in Thailand and to always have the chance to get back to a destination like that if I feel like. But what I truly desired was to leave my home country, Bulgaria, and instead move to the Netherlands.
However, my transformation started many years ago, before I even knew that’s where I wanted to live. First, I wasn’t satisfied with my life back then. I was already in my 20s and I always felt like I wasn’t spending my time right. So something had to be done.
Doubts are scary.
In fact, they are one of the reasons why so many people all over the world never start a business, end a relationship, travel or else.
Once you get through that stage though, you start having hope, you visualize a better life, and you finally take action. And once you take the first step, magical things begin to happen.
For me, that first step was to define my passion (personal development) and combine it with writing, which I simply loved doing and felt like it was the right way to spend my time.
English is just my second language. I had no official degree in what I’m doing. I wasn’t tech-savvy and had no idea how the Internet actually worked.
But the desire for a different life and more meaningful activities was stronger than any lack of knowledge or experience. So I dedicated the 4 years of my life during university to building the foundation of my online business and the lifestyle I enjoy today.
Stage 2: Getting The First Clients
I began writing, first on my blog (more on that below), then for others. But the magical ingredient here is reading.
I spent a ton of time (still do and probably always will) reading about people who were already living the life I was after. And that changed it all. I overcame all the doubts because I saw all that I wanted was possible. If other people were living like that and they all started from nothing, then it’s just a matter of time till I get there too.
That encouraged me. And my motivation never decreased because of some people I started following consistently and seeing their progress kept me action-oriented too.
It was time to earn my first dollars freelancing.
The good thing about the Internet is that you don’t have to be anyone in order to land your first gig. Once you do, the second one is easier. You just need someone to pay you for your freelance services so you can have confidence in your abilities and improve your skills.
I never thought I’d be able to call myself a freelance writer, not to mention be location independent together with that. But I left the big picture behind for a while and focused on simpler things. Such as:
What can I do today to land my first client?
After researching, I realized there are sites for freelancers where employers post jobs and I can apply to each that seems like a good fit for me. And so I did.
I created my profiles, had low rates (because any money was good money for me then if it was online), and applied for a few jobs. I had no idea what to say exactly so I just went with what felt right.
I introduced myself when pitching clients and told them how I can help them with their project. Rejection here is normal as there’s a ton of competition.
Eventually, someone hired me for a job and I made my first $20 or so.
It was a short and sweet gig and I did a good job. The communication with the client was smooth.
It’s hard to land someone for the first time, especially in my case. On my profile they could see Bulgaria and that English isn’t my native language. Also, that I’m new to the site and have no previous feedback. Basically, not the most trustworthy freelance writer to hire.
But there are new employers to such platforms too and they are ready to hire you as long as you have something to offer them.
So if you want to make money online and eventually turn that into a business, become location independent and work remotely, or just want to do what you love freelancing, then create your profiles on sites like Upwork, Guru, Freelancer and PeoplePerHour and start pitching.
Stage 3: Building a Blog and a Brand
The 3rd crucial step in my journey to becoming a location independent freelance writer was this blog.
Let’s Reach Success started as a personal blog on self-improvement. But consistency was the key and I seemed to be good at this. It’s because I love writing too of course. It eventually turned into my biggest project and today it’s my portfolio.
There are more than 1600 articles in the archives, a whole book store, proper design (thanks to this premium theme), authority, and a story behind it. Which makes me and Let’s Reach Success kind of a personal brand.
If you haven’t started a site yet, you’re wasting time. Whatever it is that you wanna do online, you need that one platform.
I’ve written a quick guide on how to do that. Check out How to Set Up a WordPress Site on Bluehost. Don’t worry, the technical aspect is easy and I’ve outlined the few simple steps you should take to have your site up and running in less than 30 minutes.
Blogging is a must for every freelance writer. Here’s why:
First, you get to showcase your work. You can write articles all the time and show them to clients. Whenever you want to start writing about a new topic, you’ll simply start covering it on your blog and then provide samples to employers.
You become known as an expert. If you stay consistent and provide unique and quality content frequently, people will know you’re the go-to blogger in the niche. Together with your unique voice and all other things you’re doing on the side, you can build a name for yourself. That means clients will start finding you soon.
Blogging is a learning experience. There’s a lot going on in the archives on my blog. If I go back, I can even see how I’ve grown over the years. Your writing will change too and that’s okay. Your site becomes your biggest project, especially if you’re a writer yourself. Also, it’s thanks to wanting to improve Let’s Reach Success that I’ve learned so much about optimizing content, making money from a blog, and more.
Stage 4: Setting Up an Online Business
Now that you’ve overcome the doubts, have landed your first freelance client, and have your own blog, you can turn that into an online business soon.
First, of course, you’ll need to have some decent income monthly to be a proper location independent freelance writer. Although plenty of people register a company from the beginning and then slowly grow their freelance business.
However, in the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. I was paying taxes and fees for the freelancing platforms I worked with and that was enough. I wasn’t sure how much more I could make each month.
When I got to a few hundred dollars monthly, though, (which is an amount you can live with back in my home country if you aren’t paying rent), I decided to fix the legal part and register as an independent worker there and start paying my taxes.
Over the next months, I truly believed I’m now a freelance writer earning money from my craft and loved it. Of course, I also wanted to grow, build skills, land better clients, improve my site and see what else I could be doing online.
Stage 5: Choosing Your Ideal Destination and Moving There
When I was making $1000/month from my blog and freelance writing services, and because the business was online, I finally felt like I could soon move away and start a new life.
The country I wanted to live in was the Netherlands. I already had friends there and knew it was the place to be for me. So I booked a place in Amsterdam with AirBnB and dedicated these 10 days to finding my new home.
I needed it to be affordable and in a good neighborhood and that’s exactly what I got.
Because I wanted to be there so much and worked hard for it, there hasn’t been a day since I moved that I didn’t wake up with a smile on my face.
That’s one of the main aspects of lifestyle design. Doing work you love and making just enough to be able to live the way you like.
Of course, Amsterdam isn’t cheap so I had to limit my expenses and change things.
Stage 6: Living The Location Independent Lifestyle
I did some traveling too. Spending 5 weeks in Thailand cost me a lot in terms of money (although it could have been cheaper too but I didn’t prepare well) and focus. But it’s safe to say these weeks have been the craziest and most adventurous ones in my life.
I might go back there, but that’s not necessary. I love my daily life too and don’t need an escape from that. The important thing about being a location independent freelance writer is that you have to enjoy the freedom of being where you are. And if you earned your chance to get there, it tastes even better.
Stage 7: Mastering Working Remotely and From Home
Location independence and freelancing aren’t for everyone as it’s not easy, there are sacrifices to be made and plenty of challenges. One of them is getting distracted and not doing focused work on a daily basis.
One thing I did right though was to build some good productivity habits and eliminate procrastination and distractions early on. In fact, that was when I started making my first money as a freelance writer.
It’s nice to imagine how you can live and work from anywhere 6 months from now. But if you don’t build the discipline in advance and learn how to structure your day so you can do your best work, you won’t make it.