For some of us, we are so familiar with a life centered around drugs and alcohol that we wonder what our life will look like after treatment. In early recovery, it is not uncommon to grieve the loss of active addiction, even though drug and alcohol use had obviously wreaked havoc in our lives. On one hand, active addiction strained close relationships, created financial insecurity, and led to an overall sense of unmanageability in our lives. On the other hand, we confided in drugs and alcohol to manage stress, to have fun, and to support us in our day to day lives. Our lives were often centered around drugs and alcohol in one form or another. Addiction was a place of refuge from the boredom, instability, and uncertainty of daily living. As we enter into treatment, we often wonder what our lives will be like when we leave.
In early recovery, it is essential to develop a routine and structure to help support a life in sobriety. We use to fill our time with finding ways and means of getting drunk or high. Now, we will need to develop new habits to take the place of the old. It will take hard work, but if we practice daily, we will quickly discover that the hard work pays off. Here are four suggestions for developing a routine and supportive structure in early recovery:
Maintain daily connection with others in recovery: Human beings are the most social species on the planet. We depend on the support of others to feel connected and to know that we are on the right track. 12 step meetings and other recovery support groups are essential for developing new relationships with people who are not using and who have found a way to live without the use of drugs and alcohol. At support meetings, you should get phone numbers and begin the process of developing new friendships. Although this can be uncomfortable and awkward at first, you can rest assured that these meetings were developed specifically for this purpose. In just a short amount of time, attendance at support groups becomes routine and it no longer feels like a chore. You start to recognize other people, and they begin to recognize you!
Center your routine around your recovery: When getting out of treatment, it is common to want to dive back into work, family responsibilities, school, or taking care of the many things that active addiction didn’t allow time for. Although these tasks are important for self-improvement, family wellbeing, self-esteem, and financial security, it is extremely important to organize your schedule around self-care and tasks that will make your personal recovery a priority. Taking time to talk to other people in recovery, pray and meditate, work on 12 step assignments and journaling are all things that will keep you grounded in recovery. Over time, your recovery efforts will help to keep you grounded, and you will find that you are more equipped to handle the stress that ordinarily accompanies these other long-term career, family, and educational goals.
Simplify your daily schedule: Now that we are in recovery, we often find ourselves with space in our schedule that used to be occupied by drug and alcohol use. It will take some patience to learn effective time management skills. You will want to begin by simplifying your schedule and engaging in daily tasks and goals that you know you can accomplish. Get a calendar and begin to block of time for your personal recovery (i.e. recovery meetings, phone calls, 12 step work, prayer / meditation). Next, set yourself simple tasks for the day that you know you can achieve. You’ll begin to learn which of these tasks are priorities and need to get done first, and which can wait until a later date. Simplifying your schedule will help you stay organized and will lead to feelings of accomplishment, rather than being overwhelmed by a list of goals and tasks that are too lofty and unrealistic.
Take time to have fun: We did not get clean to be miserable. Early recovery is a great time to start rediscovering hobbies and recreational activities that bring you joy. Having fun without the use of drugs and alcohol may not come naturally at first. It is important to be patient and to remember that you are learning to develop new ways of having fun. Ask recovery friends about their hobbies and ask if you can come along. Again, this may be uncomfortable at first; however, this type of discomfort is a growing pain of early recovery that will surely lead to personal growth and fulfillment. You may want to join a gym, pick up an instrument, find a hiking partner, or simply ask around to see what’s available. Without any fun, recovery can quickly turn into a mundane experience and feel like a chore. By taking the time to explore and participate in activities that are fun and exciting, you can ensure a more positive and balanced recovery experience.