Recovery is a particularly hard leg in life – and that’s no surprise. Addiction is a multi-faceted psychological issue, and everyone struggles with it differently. Some beat it far more easily than others, and there is no straightforward way to tell how a recovery is going to go.
But if there’s anything that can be said for the beginning stages of substance abuse recovery, it’s that after residential treatment, things can get very chaotic emotionally and mentally. Outside of treatment, there’s not much of a buffer between reality and you – and sobriety can lift a curtain for many former addicts and make them realize the full magnitude of their accumulative actions.
The mixture of happiness from being free of addiction, and the depression of dealing with everything you may have ignored, is partially to blame for the fact that the relapse rates are so high for recovering addicts in the US. However, there is a solution.
Consistency Is Key
Simply put, the solution is consistency. Applying consistency to routine in the initial stages of your recovery will help you tremendously: giving you a sense of solidity, an anchor to hold onto and focus on when things get rough, and helping you manage and accurately meet your responsibilities and goals as a recovering addict.
A simple routine is all you need to begin with. A good routine is what you’re going to be doing on a near-daily basis, giving your day structure while still letting you retain the flexibility to adjust to opportunities as they arise. Think of a routine as a form of rigid time management, a way to plan your essentials and have you be at a certain place at a certain time, all the time. A routine usually determines:
- When you wake up.
- When you have your meals.
- When you exercise.
- When you go to work/school.
- When you take care of your therapy responsibilities and assignments.
- When you go meet other people for recovery.
The rest is basically construed as your free time, but you can take it a step further and make clear schedules for how much time you spend on hobbies and entertainment, and how much time you devote to bettering yourself by reading, or writing, or working on a skill of your choosing.
Your routine usually is built around a single cornerstone, something you can’t control or change, such as when you must go work or go to school. Use this to craft your sleeping schedule and divide the rest of your day. This is to help keep you busy as well, and make the days go by faster so you increasingly distance yourself from your days struggling with addiction.
Discipline & Sobriety
Discipline is a cornerstone of sobriety, but not because it’s extremely hard to stay sober. It’s hard to get to a certain point of sobriety, not because of the constant urge to slip back into the bad habit, but because life is generally very demanding and challenging, and it takes some getting used to. In the initial stages of recovery, you must come to terms with the past while learning to struggle with the present – the goal is to just must worry about the present, and the future.
Towards a certain point, it won’t just be about sticking to a schedule for the sake of beating the addiction – discipline will be about doing what you want to do, despite your addictive past. Pursue your goals, fight for your loved ones, aggressively shoot for that promotion – and grow as a person, through discipline, and because you know that every ounce of sweat along the way is a tiny price to pay for the satisfaction of being alive and happy despite the past. However, sobriety itself isn’t just a goal – in fact, you can be sober and miserable. The goal, is to enjoy life again:
Don’t Forget to Have Fun!
Being tough on yourself is one thing, but being too hard on yourself is another. It’s important to focus on your routine, especially early on, and use it as an anchor through which you can slowly reestablish yourself after the first stage of withdrawal and into the beginning stages of long-term recovery and sobriety. However, if you do all that without ever having fun, you run the very real risk of not getting far in your journey.
Discipline is essential, yet, so is making the time to have fun. Enjoy yourself – and make it a challenge to yourself to find as many healthy ways as possible to do so. You need to learn how to have pleasure without letting that pleasure take over – sports, hobbies, games, collections, social outings – whatever it is that tickles your fancy, be sure to incorporate it into your life. Fun is important for several reasons: first, it teaches you to deal with your stress in a way that doesn’t involve self-destruction. Fun, and the many ways in which you can experience it, is a healthy coping mechanism. When we’re in a bad mood, we seek fun to distract ourselves, to clear our minds, and get back into a better mood – and with that better mood, we’re better equipped to handle our problems. Balance is key!
Anything that gives you pleasure while simultaneously putting you in a spot where you’re better equipped to deal with your problems is a good coping mechanism, and a form of stress management. Anything that gives you momentary relief or pleasure but leaves you worse off, is “maladaptive”, or bad.
Addiction is an example of a maladaptive coping mechanism – and replacing it with something that doesn’t hurt you but still helps you get your mind off edge when you’re in a bad place is just as vital as maintaining the discipline and willpower needed to continue along the path of recovery. Whether you’d like to continue with your routine is up to you – don’t cling to it as the one thing standing between you and the abyss. It’s a recovery tool – and with time, you can embrace the freedom to be able to choose whether you need it or not.