Sobriety needs stability. A steady schedule in recovery gives a recovering addict the framework needed to plot out their sober goals and have a step-by-step path to a better life. To consistently make progress in recovery, it’s important to start establishing routines very early on.
But to have a routine, a recovering addict must cement their goals and figure out the best way to achieve them. What does long-term sobriety entail? What is the bane of addiction, and a boon for recovery? What behavior must be avoided, and what habits are essential to true long-term well being? There are many facets to be considered when designing a routine for a sober lifestyle, and it starts with understanding why stability is so important.
Why Routines Matter in Recovery
A routine is a step-by-step program for any given length of time. Typically, routines account for a portion of the day. People have morning routines, evening routines, sleeping routines, or daily routines. While a schedule refers specifically to the sequential order of events within a set timescale, a routine doesn’t need to limit each step to a specific allotted time slot.
Both are important in recovery, because they offer both structure and limitation. Limitation is important in early recovery, as it keeps a recovering addict’s ‘free time’ on the down low. Sleeping schedules, early morning starts, set eating periods, and work shifts help keep you busy during the days and weeks when cravings are at their worst, and the urge to go back to old habits is still at its strongest.
As recovery gets easier, the need for schedules is diminished, but some structure is always healthy. We know for a fact that it’s better to wake up and go to sleep at set times every day, and that the body likes being used to sleeping, eating, and being active during specific points throughout a given 24-hour cycle. However, routines are eternal. Through routines, anybody can bring major improvement into their lives, minimizing time wasted and maximizing personal growth.
This is especially important for early recovering addicts, but it goes equally for everyone. A good routine can do wonders for a person physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Good routines aren’t built on total rigidity, though – they incorporate elements of flexibility, and account for problems, slip-ups, and other occasions.
What a Good Routine Looks Like
A good routine will depend highly on your interests, goals, and abilities. There is no such thing as the universally perfect routine. Some people have sleeping problems. Some people are physically disabled and unable to exercise conventionally. Some people fall asleep when they try to meditate. Some people are limited in the time they can take for themselves due to obligations to their work, family, and therapy.
A good routine should be one you can consistently stick to for months at a time. It’s okay to change your routine as your needs and circumstances change, but if you’re aspiring to hold to a routine you can’t manage to stick with for longer than a month or two, then you need a different routine. Don’t start with the bar way above your head – start somewhere accessible and go from there.
A couple of basic goals that should be achieved when designing a daily routine involve:
- Having a ritual that helps you get energized in the morning.
- Incorporating some form of movement throughout the day if you spend most of your time seated or standing still.
- Having an evening routine that gets you ready for bed and has you fall asleep at roughly the same time each night.
- Learning something each day, regardless of what it might be, or from where.
Addiction can rob a person of the ability to lead a normal and peaceful life and thrives from the chaos. By bringing a stricter order to your life, you can reintroduce some of the most basic needs that a person can have, including a solid night’s rest, healthy eating habits, daily movement, and something stimulating for the mind.
What a Routine Needs to Be Useful
Good routines differentiate themselves from bad routines insofar that they elicit long lasting change but are still doable daily, but there are a few goalposts that you should aim for when designing a structure for your new sober life.
Consider what changes you’re actually striving to make in your own life and think on how you can contribute each day to making those hopeful changes become a reality. It could be spending your commute, time at the laundromat, or time cleaning the house/apartment listening to a language podcast, history podcast, or other forms of informational content. It could be taking ten minutes every few hours to stretch your spine and hips or do a few gentle exercises to ease your knee pain. It could be aspiring to cook at least half or more of your meals in any given week from scratch. Or, it could be anything else.
We all have our own aspirations, but it’s important to start somewhere. Sobriety is often a person’s second chance at seriously tackling their life from the ground up and determining how they want to spend each subsequent waking minute. This is the perfect opportunity to consider what you’ve always wanted to be able to accomplish, and then set out to try and accomplish it. In other words: to be successful, a routine needs not only to help you account for the basics, but it should help you grow as a person, learn new things, and always strive to improve.
Develop a Plan B
Life is far from ideal, and no amount of planning ever prepares a person for what is going to happen. That’s why flexibility is important. We can’t rely on our plans, schedules, and routines to be followed to a T on any and every given day. Things can happen that force us to shift our priorities at the last second and focus on something entirely else. Alternatively, there’s always the risk that a relapse may occur.
Dealing with these changes requires understanding that they’re bound to happen sometimes, and you must be ready to deal with the aftermath. Routines can help you prepare for relapses, by developing if-then solutions. If you relapse, then you start by contacting your therapist or psychiatrist, look for ways to enter a recovery program or get into a sober living environment, and contact your family members and loved ones about what happened. Furthermore, when certain things get in the way of your planned routines, it’s important not to be too upset. Life happens, and we always need to leave room for when it decides to intrude on our plans.