Working on your recovery does not end when you leave your rehab centre. In fact, it is just the beginning. Getting used to living in the ‘real world’ again while maintaining a focus on your recovery can be very difficult. Many people are eager to get back to their jobs, their families, their relationships – making them top priority, whilst only ‘fitting in’ their recovery.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t work as well as one might hope. Recovery needs to be your number one priority, and your life will have to adapt in order to accommodate everything recovery entails. After all – there is a good chance you’d lose your job, your family and your significant other if you relapse – meaning recovery really does need to be your number one priority.
That being said, it doesn’t have to always feel as though recovery is your top priority. With these fairly simple lifestyle changes, you can ensure that recovery gets the attention it needs, while you ultimately better your life overall.
1. Keep Active
When you’ve returned home after rehab, there is a common desire to curl up in bed and stay put. Facing the ‘real world’ may feel overwhelming. However, doing that will only set you up for a higher chance of relapse in the long-run.
It is important to schedule regular physical activity into your weekly routine. Whether it’s training at a gym, going for long walks, or getting involved in team sports – physical activity not only takes up the time that might otherwise be spent dreaming about the substance or lifestyle that initially sent you to rehab – but any type of exercise releases those “feel-good” endorphins that are beneficial to keeping a positive attitude about recovery and life in general. Plus, physical activity can help counteract some of the damage you had previously done to your body when you were using
2. Learn to Relax
Seriously. Learn to relax a little. Or a lot. Stress is one of the main reasons that people begin drinking, using drugs or over-eating. These substances are often initially used to relieve tension and escape the brutality of a typical day – which is why it is important to keep your stress levels low if you want to avoid relapse.
The first step is in making sure that you don’t put too much on your plate. Do not sign up for extra projects at work to make up for lost time, or agree to coach your child’s soccer team in the evenings. Plan at least an hour of “me-time” each day, where you can spend it doing things that you enjoy. Whether it’s reading a book, practicing yoga or meditation, or simply watching your favourite TV programme – be sure to schedule in enough time to relax, unwind and tune out of the real world for a bit.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is something that millions of people deprive themselves of every day. But what happens then? You wake up with a near-empty fuel tank, and you’ve still got an entire day ahead to get through. Small annoyances grow in size, and the simplest of tasks can seem unbearable – all adding to your stress levels, which you’re meant to be keeping low
Experts recommend a solid seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Find a sleep routine that you can manage and stick to it. If you have trouble falling asleep, try putting on soft music or nature sounds to lull yourself to sleep, or drink a cup of chamomile tea when it’s approaching bedtime. If you’re still having trouble, see a sleep specialist. A good night’s sleep really does prepare you to deal with your day in a positive, energetic way.
4. Eat Properly
Eat a healthy diet, and don’t skip meals. Eat only when you are hungry. When you are in recovery, you may want to grab a candy bar or a bag of chips when depressed or anxious. You may want to veg out in front of the TV when you’re having a bad day. And while everyone does this every now and then, feeding into these cravings will mean that essentially you’re replacing your previous addiction with food – which can lead to weight gain and lowered self-confidence – neither of which will help you in recovery.
Instead, plan your meals ahead of time with plenty of healthy foods and stick to them. You will be fuelling your body with only what it needs, meaning you will function better throughout the day – both physically and mentally.
5. Indulge New Interests
Now that you’ve got all this extra time on your hands that you previously spent on your addiction, why not find some new hobbies or activities to get into? Instead of pining away the hours thinking about what you would have been doing at that time before, spend the time doing something to better yourself. Why not volunteer at the local community centre? Or sign up for those art classes you’ve always been meaning to start? The more you fill your time with things that make you feel good about yourself, the more success you will have in recovery.
6. Stay Spiritual
Feelings of emptiness, loneliness and vulnerability are common amongst those newly in recovery. And while it’s not necessary to hand yourself over to any higher power if you are not into that sort of thing – it is important to at least tune into nature and your surroundings as much as you can. Feeling connected to something (like the environment) will help you to feel a part of something bigger than your daily struggles.
Practicing meditation or yoga has been proven to have profound results in addiction recovery, but if you are not well-informed in this area, that’s okay. Take some time to sit under a beautiful tree in the nearby park, or even your own yard, and try to clear your mind. Get rid of the constant chatter that is running on repeat in your head, and try to be in the present moment. Even ten minutes a day will help you to refocus yourself and ready you for what lays ahead.
Many addicts in long-term recovery will tell you that they incorporate these practices into their daily lives even after years of sobriety. And if you’re saying “how will I have time to fit all this in?” The answer is simple! Remember – your recovery is the most important thing in your life right now. So grab your calendar, and clear everything. Then, slowly put back in the things that you need to focus on for recovery. Schedule your support groups for the next two years. Add in your weekly routine for physical activity. Slot in 15 minutes for meditation or relaxation in the middle of the afternoon when you know your work schedule gets a bit crazy. Then, once you have everything in your calendar that will aid in your recovery, begin adding back in the rest of your life – work, meetings, kid’s appointments. It’s okay to focus on you right now. In fact, it is the only way you’ll be able to maintain your recovery.