It’s hard to maintain sobriety – relapse rates will tell you as much. Addiction is more than a simple switch, to flipped on and off. Instead, it’s a gradual process that takes years or even decades to reverse. With time, it will become easier to deny your cravings. That, and people tend to become better at finding ways to live without drugs, no matter how tempting they may be.
However, getting to that point where you can maintain sobriety typically takes a long time. And in that time, the chances of giving up are very high.
Having a routine can help make it easier to overcome your cravings during early recovery, and help arm you with the tools you need to maintain sobriety in the long-term. We’ll explore why a simple routine can have a major impact on your ability to maintain sobriety in both the early recovery period, and over the course of your lifetime.
Consistency in Early Recovery
Early recovery is, if anything, inconsistent. First: the length of time spent in “early recovery” is different from person to person. Second: your mood may improve drastically one day, and crash down the other. Third: staying away from drugs will be harder than ever. Yet your motivation to maintain sobriety will be strong and fresh as well. This creates a massive inner conflict spanning days, weeks, and even months.
Creating and following a routine during this period of your recovery can massively improve your chances of not just avoiding relapse, but also help you get back on track as quickly as possible and maintain sobriety.
This is because routines offer consistency, which is sorely lacking during early recovery. Through a consistent routine, you’ll have something you can hang onto in times of chaos. No matter how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking, you know that on Monday you’re scheduled you hit up the gym at this time, clean up around the house at this time, and make that for dinner at such and such an hour in the evening.
Routines give you a sense of normalcy with which you can more easily adjust to living at home after rehab as you maintain sobriety.
Taking Your Mind Off Things To Help Maintain Sobriety
It’s important to create a routine that constructively helps you. Don’t just bore yourself to death, or try and be as “efficient as possible”. Give yourself room to explore creative endeavors, go to new events and meetups, spend some time reading a new book, and squeeze in a short workout. Doing these things will help you take your mind off the cravings, and introduce new sources of fun and pleasure in your life. Meeting new people, exercising and exploring new interests or your inner creativity can boost your self-esteem as well, which makes an enormous difference in addiction recovery.
Eventually, drug cravings do diminish. Whether they can go away or not may depend on the severity of an addiction, but given enough time and dedication, any addiction can be overcome.
Some people rely on their family and friends to keep them on the straight and narrow, especially early on when the temptation to swerve off the path of sobriety is very powerful. Others take it upon themselves, taking up every class and activity they can to find that one thing to obsess over to beat out the urge to use, smoke or drink. A sober living home can also help if you feel like the extra support will work well. Whatever works for you, remember that consistency is key.
The Power of Coping
The difference between a healthy habit and an obsession is the way you approach the activity in your life. Many of the things we do for fun or entertainment are activities we use for coping with life’s challenges. A negative coping mechanism is one that makes your overall life worse. It detrimentally affects your mood and thinking, cuts into your ability to work or concentrate, and consumes your thoughts far too much.
A positive coping mechanism helps you deal with life’s challenges effectively. Instead of distracting you from your problems, it gives you the clarity, focus, and confidence needed to effectively address them.
Take exercise. An unhealthy obsession with exercise can quickly destroy your body, alienate you from your friends and family, and consume your entire life. It can cause you to spend far more money than you need to. You begin to mask your problems in life by addressing perceived imperfections in your diet, or training protocol.
A healthy coping mechanism is when you use exercise to work off stress, set realistic goals that avoid injury, and use your daily or regular training session to help you build your ability to focus. You set the time aside to train – but you don’t let it rule your life, or consume more of your day than the rest of your schedule.
This difference is crucial when determining whether a habit helps, or simply hinders your ability to live life – and maintain sobriety. You’re not trying to create a distraction, you’re trying to improve your ability to enjoy the day-to-day, and be happy with the important things in life – the work you do, the talents you hone, the family you love, the friends you hang out with, and whatever else may give you purpose and meaning.