While at first glance, recovery seems to be about getting sober and staying sober, it’s an involved process that lasts a lifetime. To “recover” is to overcome addiction, and in most cases, that means making sweeping changes. Living life as an addict can leave a person malnourished, and saddled with thoughts of guilt, self-deprecation, and anxiety. Rehab and medical attention are necessary first steps for many struggling with drug addiction, as a way to get a better picture of an addict’s physical health, as well as their best path forward.
Because of the lasting damage that drug abuse can cause, finding ways to improve an addict’s health are crucial. It might just start with one or two new habits, but it’s important to make changes to the way you live as you continue through the recovery process. Here are a few healthy habits that will help you not only get back on your feet but build a rewarding and fulfilling sober life.
Create A Daily Schedule
First things first: a schedule. Schedules are tremendously useful, because they give us something to set our clock by. Our internal clock, that is. Getting used to a productive routine helps us stay sane, make day-to-day progress, and harness a feeling of achievement at the end of each day. Additionally, when struggling with addiction, it’s important to find things to do.
In the early stages of recovery, cravings and ceaseless thoughts of addiction can drive you crazy. Couple that with boredom, and it becomes difficult to resist the temptation to go do something you might regret. Keeping yourself busy in the first few weeks and months of addiction is helpful. Over time, the cravings will let up and you’ll develop your own tools and habits to undermine your cravings, if and when they return.
Another reason why daily schedules are important is to maintain a sense that you’re getting something done every single day. This is especially important after early recovery, when addicts are most likely to succumb to symptoms of depression and develop other issues as a result of the emotional effects of going sober, and the stresses of recovery. Without taking the proper precautions, days can easily blend together. Find something to dedicate yourself to – school, work, a new course, a personal goal – and pursue it passionately.
Manage and Repair Your Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm is the internal 24-hour body clock that we humans share with many other organisms. As the Earth revolves around its own axis, the sun passes through the sky and day turns to night. Most creatures on Earth have evolved to live their lives on a day-by-day basis, going through periods of activity and inactivity. While these internal clocks mostly run on their own, we do ‘reset’ them based on changes in daylight and nighttime, as well as a number of other factors.
Plenty of things can upset the circadian rhythm. Some people undergo serious mental and emotional changes during the winter time, when daylight is reduced, and most people wake up during what is still ostensibly the night. Meanwhile, many people struggle from stress-induced insomnia, as well as sleeping issues fueled by time spent exposed to blue-light mobile devices (which mimic daylight) and late evening caffeine.
Drug abuse can heavily affect a person’s circadian rhythm, throwing it completely out of balance and wrecking the body’s sense of time. Getting into the habit of sleeping and waking up at regular hours, day after day, can drastically improve your mood and help you manage the tasks you’re going to be facing every day.
Start by trying to get 8 hours of sleep every single night, and then adjust your sleeping times until you find yourself winding down around 9-10pm and falling asleep no later than 11:30pm. If you struggle with this, consider speaking to your medical professional about non-pharmacological sleeping aids, from relaxation training to stretching, incense, and hypnosis. Melatonin pills can also work but should be taken with caution, especially if you take other supplements or are on any medication.
Find Ways to Eat Better
Food has a massive impact on us, more than most might realize. We have to eat on a daily basis, and the fuel we subsist on has an effect on our physical and mental states. Food is digested and broken down into macronutrients, micronutrients, and certain chemicals that may affect the body in positive ways, negative ways, or both. Foods with antioxidant properties can help slow or combat the effects of free radicals in the body, for example, improving overall health. Certain minerals and vitamins are crucial for function, from iron and calcium to vitamin D and C. But too much or too little can cause deficiencies, imbalances, and serious symptoms.
It’s important to eat a well-balanced diet. Many drug addicts struggle to eat properly, because drugs often suppress the appetite (stimulants), provide an overabundance of useless calories (alcohol), or induce a craving for calorie-dense, nutritionally-poor foods (marijuana). Some of the effects of withdrawal can be attributed to a poor diet, the symptoms of which might have been masked by drug use. Eating healthy again can greatly change your physical appearance, give you strength, and massively improve your mood as well as overall self-esteem.
Some people make the mistake of making a very difficult commitment to the gym, only to go once or twice and then quitting again. Start exercising on a manageable level, at home or near your workplace, for short periods of time.
Motivate yourself by doing things you genuinely enjoy when exercising, instead of treating yourself or trying to gamify your training. Seek out exercise that is interesting and engaging to you. You don’t have to go jogging or join the latest fitness fad or do yoga to find inner peace. Do whatever you want, as long as it’s safe and helps keep you active.
It doesn’t even have to burn many calories – the point of exercise, for the most part, is to get you moving. Movement and physical exertion can trigger the release of endorphins, and make you feel a little happier and a lot healthier. Meanwhile, weight loss (if needed) is done in the kitchen.
Create Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Goals are important for your mental health. With time, a routine will also make the days blend together. You need something to keep track of, and your sobriety on its own often isn’t enough.
Consider engaging in a hobby that allows you to steadily progress and measure your time as an investment in something you’re seeing steady returns in. A sport, an art, or some other pastime you can improve in will help you a lot in keeping your life interesting and giving yourself something to think about aside from your sobriety.