In previous articles, we have discussed the importance of creating a new life in recovery. Setting goals and creating boundaries can help people move forward. But true recovery requires more thought and intention to abstain from drugs and alcohol.
Recovery from addiction is a life-long journey, and successful recovery demands a conscious, daily commitment to staying sober. Understanding the nature of addiction is helpful for setting your expectations. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse identifies addiction as a chronic, relapsing disease. As a chronic illness, addiction can be managed or controlled, but not ultimately cured. While relapse is common, addicts can take steps toward relapse prevention by evaluating their daily decisions through the lens of recovery. Consider the following suggestions on integrating recovery in your daily life.
Living by a schedule
When your time revolves around finding the next drink or the next high, a life of substance abuse can feel turbulent, chaotic, and even violent. As relationships fall apart and commitments keep slipping, your priorities drastically change. That need to satisfy your cravings overrides all other plans, challenging your ability to maintain a normal work/life schedule.
As you go through residential addiction treatment, one of the helpful, habit-forming aspects is finding a consistent routine. The routine you develop in treatment puts structure back in your day. Addicts in recovery often face their weakest moments when they lack structure—when they grow bored or restless. By carrying out that structure in your everyday life, you keep your time occupied by healthier activities, avoiding empty moments where you may contemplate using again.
Even on days when you aren’t working or don’t have other appointments, take the initiative to plan out your day. Will you exercise or run errands or do housekeeping tasks? Write them down. Keeping a calendar and writing to-do lists keep you in a more positive, active mindset, helping you resist any relapse triggers of lonely, unaccounted hours.
Connecting with others
Addiction draws people into isolation. Perhaps you remember times in the darkest days of your addiction when you shut out some of your loved ones. People with substance abuse problems commonly distance themselves from family and friends, putting up walls when others reprimand them for using or don’t understand how they feel. That aspect of addiction is especially painful in its aftermath—the drowning feeling of disconnecting from everyone around you.
Recovery doesn’t have to be miserable, and you can’t attain your best life in recovery if you remain in isolation. Feelings of loneliness can be a trigger for relapse. As you repair relationships that have been damaged by your addiction, consider how you can deliberately build a support system that encourages your recovery. These are the people who can help keep you accountable and create settings where you feel safe. Having that supportive community is essential to staying sober.
Helping someone else
One rewarding part of recovery is the opportunity to pay it forward. We hear this from people from all walks of life. Sharing stories and experiences helps people with similar struggles find commonality and inspiration, sparking greater change in another person. Your story may be exactly what someone else needs to hear to evaluate their options and make a healthy change. You may be surprised at how sharing your story liberates and empowers you just as much as the audience.
Do you know someone else who needs help with an addiction? Take a look at our perspective on how to bring up the problem.