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Strategies for Successful Recovery Routines

Establishing new routines during recovery – especially during early recovery – helps ensure success. Changing the habits and patterns that you had during the time of active addiction allows you to structure your time and plan ways to make better choices. It leads to the development of new habits that foster more positive, healthy experiences. When new behaviors become habituated, they “write over” the mental programming of the previous, unhealthy behaviors that they replace.

In a previous article, Bringing Balance Back: Why You Need Routine and Structure, I noted that we all need order, rhythm and harmony in every area of our lives. So we should carefully consider how much time we devote to each of the activities and responsibilities that make up our daily and weekly routines. We should strive daily to nurture not only our physical well-being, but our mental/emotional and spiritual wellbeing in addition.

But as helpful as it is, simply developing new habits and routines is not enough. You need to consciously and intentionally develop specific strategies related to your routines that will assure that you avoid the pitfall of going back to old behaviors due to boredom or lack of planning or structure. Here are some strategies to consider as you think about how you will implement your new recovery routines.

Tips for Creating Successful Routines

  • Keep your major goal – maintaining your recovery – uppermost in you mind. Every decision about what to include, or what not to include in your routine – whether daily, weekly or monthly – should be measured against its ability to aid you in reaching this fundamental goal.
  • Create new habits and routines that fit your current strengths and abilities. Depending on where you are in your recovery process, you may need to scale back on some plans in order to allow your body and mind time to heal and adjust. While it is a good idea to initiate an exercise routine during recovery, for example, your body may not be ready for a full-blown workout with a trainer. You may need to ease into exercising by starting with a plan to walk three or four times a week, adding a little more time and distance to your routine as your muscles grow stronger.
  • Create routines that are sustainable. Many of us undertake a new plan with zeal and enthusiasm, but somewhere along the line, our enthusiasm wanes. By choosing activities that you enjoy, you are more like to sustain your efforts. Instead of going to the gym to work out, if that is not something that you actually enjoy, get your exercise by doing something that you really want to do. Activities like working in your yard or garden, playing soccer with your child, or taking a walk with your spouse may be routines that you can sustain over time. And it is only by the  continued adherence to a routine that you gain the full, long-terms benefits of it.
  • Learn from others. If you are uncertain about how to re-structure your routines and create more healthy habits, consider asking a sponsor or peer who has been successful in their own recovery. You may not choose to partake in the same type of activities that this person did; but you can, however, benefit from the attitudes and discipline strategies that they used to help them achieve their goal.

Potential Pitfalls of Changing Routines

Rearranging your life to incorporate new routines and habits is a necessity for those who are moving from addiction to recovery. But it can feel like a daunting task, and if you allow yourself to become overwhelmed, you may fall back into old habits. Be mindful of these potential dangers and take steps to manage them.

  • Discipline and adherence to a routine can become overly stern task-masters, if you are too strict with them. As important and beneficial as it is to have and adhere to routines during recovery, the benefit will be diminished if you go overboard and become too strict and uptight about maintaining your schedules. You could then cause yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety, which would work against your primary goal of maintaining sobriety. If you find yourself getting too stressed or if you chastise yourself for missing a routine, you are probably being too strict regarding your routines. Balance your positive goals of maintaining your routines with common-sense understanding that at times, all plans must be altered to fit unexpected circumstances.
  • Routines can sometimes crowd out time with family and friends. Having structured, consistent routines certainly help keep you on track with your major goal of maintaining recovery. However, it is important to also spend time with family and friends, who often provide your main support system. Balance these two needs by structuring into your routines set times that you will spend with those people who are important to you. For instance, family and friends can be included in some of your relaxation or exercise activity routines by choosing activities where they can be included, versus choosing all solitary activities.
  • Boredom and loss of enthusiasm become the enemies of all routines over time. However, they are avoidable if you have a flexible attitude and are willing to be flexible with your plans. As one type of exercise becomes less interesting and you begin to lose your motivation, switch it up. Take up a new activity that provides similar results, such as switching hiking for walking or running, or tai chi for yoga.

Create and Maintain Successful Routines

With these strategies in mind, you will more likely be able to create and maintain successful routines that assist you in your recovery efforts. For examples of positive daily and weekly routines that you might wan to include in your plans, see my article, Bringing Balance Back: Why You Need Routine and Structure.


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