5 Ways to Create Sober Routines in Recovery

5 Ways to Create Sober Routines in Recovery

Having a friend, counselor or sponsor checking in on you is a powerful recovery tool

One of the most powerful aspects of addiction is the way it establishes unhealthy patterns in the brain. The rituals of substance abuse are extremely difficult to disrupt, but with the right help you can harness your brain’s habit-building power to stay clean. The following acts are 5 ways to create healthy, sober routines in addiction recovery:

Recognize Your Triggers

Drugs and alcohol directly impact the pleasure center of the brain, which is used for learning, memory, impulse control and the formation of habits. When a substance relieves underlying emotional or physical pain, the brain recognizes that relief and then desires it. In effect, the brain on a deep, psychological level creates chemical shortcuts that cause the addict to relieve pain by drinking or getting high. This act is the same brain-building process that turns routine actions into barely conscious habits, such as scratching an itch. Once addicts experience physical or emotional distress, their brains immediately drive the addictive behavior to relieve it. These cravings can be triggered by the following problems:

  • Withdrawal symptoms (pain, flu-like symptoms and etc.)
  • Anxiety caused by relational stress, workplace pressure, poor self-esteem or other sources
  • Entering a familiar neighborhood where drugs were regularly purchased
  • Physical pain related to injury or illness
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Financial stress

Anything that creates negative emotions can trigger drug cravings. Many positive things can also trigger cravings, such as reconnecting with an old friend you used to get high with or coming into some unexpected money. One of the most important skills recovering addicts can cultivate is deepened self-awareness. When you learn to recognize your triggers, you can develop a routine for managing them. A mindfulness routine might look something like this sequence:

  • Name your trigger as soon as you recognize it, and then tell someone about it
  • Immediately reach out to your counselor, sponsor, partner or sobriety coach when the craving hits
  • Write about your specific feelings and cravings in a journal
  • Pick up a productive hobby to get your mind off pain

The skill of recognizing your triggers and talking about them routinely moves your behavior from the emotional part of your brain into the conscious part, which means you can handle problems better.

Organize Your Day

Your addiction was probably a fairly regimented affair. Every day at a certain time you might have felt a craving: acts as simple as walking through the door at the end of a workday, getting in your car or making plans for a Friday night could all be points on an organized, but subconscious routine. Many recovering addicts work to undo that addictive routine, but they do not develop an alternative structure, and disorganized free time is a high relapse risk.

Developing a structured routine can be as simple as mapping out every hour of the day. This act might seem awkward at first, but make sure you wake up, go to bed and eat healthy meals at the same time to train yourself to abide by a schedule. Develop some exercise habits (such as walking, jogging or swimming) and do them at the same time every day. Build a plan for every weeknight after work. Get involved with events like recovery meetings, church plans, sober social gatherings, book clubs or special hobby projects. In other words, avoid too much free time. As your routine develops, share it with your recovery support group so they can hold you accountable.

Make Accountability a Habit

Few people readily embrace being accountable to other people, but having a friend, counselor or sponsor checking in on you is a powerful recovery tool. With practice, you can make the following acts habitual:

  • Check in with your sponsor several times a day like clockwork
  • Regularly send text messages to your sober support network
  • Let someone know if and when you start to feel uneasy
  • Ask for input before making major decisions

If you can maintain complete connectivity with your sponsor for a solid month, then it will become a new, healthy habit.

Avoid too Much Free Time

It can be helpful to keep a running “to-do” list of projects, hobbies or even relationships that you want to spend more time on. Write that list down so you can check it when you have free time. Many people wrongly think they have nothing to do, but, if you wait until you are feeling low or bored, then you might forget all of the constructive and fun acts that you want to do. Maybe you should work on a painting or a book; maybe there’s a good, healthy friend you never seem to talk to; maybe you should do some gardening or a woodworking project. If you can make your free time productive, then you are much less likely to succumb to the temptation to relapse.

Stay Connected

To stay in control of your life, it is necessary to stay connected with your support network and to your own emotions and thoughts. Plan to call your parents or pastor regularly. Make time to get together with a good friend or mentor as often as possible. When you are with these people, make sure to speak openly and honestly about your experiences and feelings. The more connected you stay with other people, the more connected you will want to stay. The disease of addiction encourages isolation, but there is freedom in community.

24 Hour Recovery Help

If you would like more information about creating sober routines in recovery, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now for professional help.

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