Drug recovery often relies on time, and in helping a recovering addict remain sober for a very long length of it, the challenge of said sobriety greatly diminishes and sober life normalizes. But without the right help, that time can be cut short. Most individuals who get treatment for addiction relapse at least once, and many relapse more than once. Some never get better. Sticking to a schedule can greatly help prevent this from happening.
Schedules are important. Like rules, they serve to give us a sense of boundary, a tangible limit to consider when we think about how much time we’re allotting to a task on any given day. They give us a sense of tempo, urgency, and accomplishment as we make our way through the day, day by day. But if mishandled, a schedule can quickly go from being an important and useful tool to becoming a terrible monotony, and if anything is likely to drive someone towards using again, it is boredom and lack of stimulation. We are going to focus on explaining what it is that makes a routine critical, while talking about how to turn a routine into something that remains engaging over long periods of time.
Why a Routine Is Important
A routine is a set course of actions followed daily. Routines are different from schedules, and they don’t always refer to the entire day. For example, you can have a morning routine, an evening routine, or a mealtime routine. Or, of course, a daily routine. A schedule, on the other hand, is a timetable that must be followed as a way to maintain structure in the day. Together, both are important for creating order in a chaotic life and dealing with the common issues often present in early recovery.
As a recovering drug addict begins to go through the final days of withdrawal, their next challenge crystalizes – learning to maintain their sobriety day in and day out. The only way to characterize a successful treatment of drug addiction is complete abstinence for life, which is not at all easy to achieve. This requires a lot of resilience as well as a serious commitment to recovery – but it also requires living a sober life one can enjoy and stick to.
A daily routine gives many recovering addicts the structure they need to ensure that they get through each day doing the things they must do to keep themselves focused on being sober. It’s very easy to fall off the wagon, and many of the things that keep people on there – good sleep, a healthy diet, regular exercise, a fulfilling position at a workplace, and time spent on daily hobbies, as well as time spent with family and friends – are difficult to maintain. It takes a serious level of willpower and self-discipline to practice that level of self-care over the long-term, and anything that can help a person cement such a schedule and keep it in their lives will be a blessing.
The Benefits of Diet, Sleep, and Exercise
Many of the things that are key to recovery are matters of self-care. Self-help and self-care are two very different things – self-help refers to resources that essentially try to provide individuals with information to help themselves, while self-care is taking the proper measures to take care of one’s own health. Anything from taking a long and slow bath to preparing a nighttime ritual can be a form of effective self-care. But perhaps the three key elements of self-care that are most critical to recovery are food, sleep, and exercise.
Your diet affects so much more than you might realize, having a serious and significant impact on your mental health. The ingredients we cook with, their origins, their processing, and the way our bodies react to them are all vital to both gut health and mental health. And while a nutritious diet can uplift our spirits and make a serious difference in an individual’s recovery, a poor diet can make a similar impact in the other direction.
Sleep is crucial, and sleep hygiene problems are one of the most common signs of a mental health issue. We need our sleep, and we all need it in individual amounts. Some feel six hours does them justice, while others feel they need at least eight to function. Both genetics as well as habit determine what amount of time is best for you, but what all can agree with is that daily sleep is very important. Just as important is making sure that that sleep is regular and consistent. We should fall asleep and wake up at roughly the same times every single day. Don’t try to rob from one day to pay for the bad habits of another – keep your sleep clean.
Finally, exercise. Research has shown that exercise can be an effective way to help in recovery, and it is certainly one of the best ways to deal with stress management. Yet there is more to incorporating exercise into a daily routine than just getting a gym membership. Think about what kind of exercise you enjoy and think about how to incorporate it into your every week. It doesn’t have to be a sport or a conventional training method – it could be dancing, or yoga, or something else to keep you active and moving.
Routine and Sober Living
The best way to practice settling into a routine and sticking to the parameters of a schedule is through the rules of a sober living home. Sober living homes are drug-free environments dedicated towards recovery and self-improvement. They allow recovering addicts to live free from temptation, while engaging with fellow recovering addicts on a daily basis for meetings, group activities, and more. Yet while this all sounds very similar to rehab, it has one major difference that sets itself apart: the lack of a proper program or curriculum. Instead, tenants are given individual tasks and chores, and are encouraged to learn to manage their own time and find the way in which they can best do the things they need to do, and still have time for themselves. Sober living homes encourage self-reliance, accountability, and learning to take on life’s challenges one step at a time.
Through a sober living environment, an individual can quickly learn to better manage their own time without having to worry about relapsing, effectively making the transition between a life away from recovery programs, and recovery programs.
There is more to addiction treatment than having a good schedule, of course. A good support system, a good therapist, a good recovery program, and a home environment conducive towards recovery all help smoothen the process – but at the end of the day, the question of whether one will or won’t use again depends on the patient, and having an established routine is a helpful way to maintain that commitment to sobriety over a long period of time.