Life in Early Recovery

When people first become sober they can feel a bit overwhelmed by their new reality.

They now have to face life on life’s terms, and they will no longer have the option of running away to their chemical refuge. Life can be tough initially for people in recovery, but the situation can be improved if the individual develops some type of routine early on. This will provide them with a bit of structure and that can be comforting. So long as the individual does not become too obsessed with their routine it can be a wonderful asset.

Routine Defined

A routine can be defined as a prescribed, detailed, course of action to be followed regularly. For most people a routine is a set of tasks that they perform on a regular basis. A daily routine is a plan that the individual will try to follow each day. There may be occasions where they have to deviate from their daily routine, but it will provide a general structure for their day. 

Elements of a Daily Routine

A daily routine can include such things as:

  • The time that people get up in the morning.
  • The time they go to bed.
  • Their exercise regime.
  • Daily meditation practice.
  • The times they eat their meals.
  • Time they devote to socializing.
  • Time devoted to hobbies.
  • Their work routine including the time they leave for work and the time they get home.
  • Time devoted to spiritual pursuits such as contemplation or walking in nature.
  • Regular attendance at some type of recovery group.
  • Routine for keeping the home clean.
  • Personal hygiene routine.
  • The routine the individual uses for taking care of their children.
  • Time devoted each day to learning new things or reading inspirational material.
  • Making time to keep a daily journal

Benefits of Routine in Early Recovery

Those people who are in early recovery can benefit from establishing some type of routine. The advantages of doing so include:

  • A routine gives the individual a structure, and this provides familiarity and comfort. The newly sober person will be experiencing a great deal of change in their life so any type of stability is welcome.
  • Insomnia can be a problem for people when they first become sober. If they establish a regular routine for going to bed and getting up it will help them adjust to a normal sleeping pattern sooner.
  • Most people who enter recovery will be in poor health and have low physical fitness. A regular fitness routine will help to get them back in shape – this is important because an unhealthy body can hold people back.
  • People will tend to be much more productive when they follow a routine. Without such a plan the individual can waste too much time worrying about what to do next.
  • A routine breaks tasks up into well ordered patterns so that they appear more manageable. If the individual is faced with all the things they need to do, without a plan, they can easily become overwhelmed.
  • A routine means that people actually get things done. If people do not have scheduled activities they are more likely to procrastinate.
  • A dangerous emotion for people in early recovery is boredom – it is a common relapse trigger. If the individual has a plan for their day to day living they will be less likely to have periods where they are bored.
  • Loneliness is another dangerous emotion for people in recovery. A routine can insure that they individual gets to regularly spend time with other people.

Dangers of Becoming Obsessed with Routine

A routine can be a wonderful tool but a terrible master. Some people become so fixated on their routines that it begins to negatively impact their life. The dangers of obsession with routine include:

  • They individual may become so dependent on their routine that they become uncomfortable when any changes need to be made to it. This is an unhealthy way to live because routines have to be adaptable to changes in life.
  • People can begin to put their routines ahead of other people. This can mean that they neglect loved ones because they don’t want any change to their usual pattern of doing things.
  • If people are too strict about their routine it can prevent them from trying new things. This is a mistake because it is new things that make life interesting and encourage people to grow and develop in recovery.
  • If the individual becomes stuck in a routine their life can become boring and predictable. They may later use this as a justification to relapse back to their addiction.
  • Some people will use these routines as another means to avoid dealing with reality. This can mean that they become stuck in their recovery, and that is a dangerous situation to be in.
  • Life is full of unexpected events and if people are slave to a routine they will suffer.
  • As people progress in recovery they will frequently have to update their routines. If years go by and the individual is still stuck with the same set pattern of living they are almost certainly doing something wrong.

Tips for Establishing a Routine in Recovery

There are things that people can do to help them establish a routine in early recovery such as:

  • Creating a weekly plan where they schedule activities.
  • The routine should not leave gaps where the individual has nothing to do and is likely to get bored.
  • The individual needs to be willing to make changes to their routine if there is a good reason. They need to remember that the routine is meant to be a tool, and they should not become a slave to it.
  • It can take a long time in recovery before the individual decides on the things they like to do. This is why it is a good idea to regularly schedule new activities so that people can experiment – this can be such fun part of early recovery.
  • A routine in early recovery should be all about balance. This means having a good mix of spiritual (e.g. yoga or meditation), physical, and metal activities.
  • As the individual develops new interests they will likely need to adapt their routine.
  • It can be tempting for people to try to fit too much into their schedule. This can be a mistake and lead to fatigue and frustration.
  • It is important to schedule plenty of activities that are designed to strengthen recovery. The priority in early recovery has to be sobriety, and the schedule should reflect this – nothing should come before staying sober.
  • Any schedule needs to be realistic and sustainable.
  • When establishing a fitness routine it is best to start off with a modest level of exercise and slowly build on this. Those people who have not exercised in a long time, or have any health problems, should consult their physician first of all.
  • It is helpful to learn from the experiences of people who are already established in sobriety. These people will usually have plenty of useful advice for creating healthy routines in recovery.
  • Keeping a journal is a great way to assess the value of certain routines. The individual can track their progress with routines over time and make suitable adjustments.
  • It is never a good idea to put a routine ahead of the needs of loved ones. These individuals may have had to put up with a great deal during the years of addiction and are now deserving of some attention.

Negative Routines to Avoid

Some people in recovery adapt negative routines that can be detrimental to their sobriety such as:

  • Regularly walking past bars where they used to spend their time and imagining the fun they are missing. This is called romancing the drink, and it can be highly dangerous.
  • Regularly spending time with people who still abuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Spending time listening to the music that the individual associates with getting high or drunk.
  • Spending an excessive amount of time on the internet or playing computer games. This can become a form of escapism if it occurs on a regular basis.
  • Comfort eating is another dangers pattern that people need to avoid in recovery. It means that the individual turns to food (usually junk food) as a means to avoid their feelings.
  • Spending too much time around negative people. Humans are highly influence by those they spend time with – this is why in Alcoholics Anonymous they suggest that members stick with the winners.
  • It is vital that the individual looks out for patterns of negative thinking. Once people fall into the habit of being negative it can cause serious problems for their recovery.
  • People need to avoid any type of addiction substitute. This could include such things as workaholism or exercise addiction.

One of the key elements in a rehab like Hope Trust is a daily routine. Clients have to adhere to a strict, healthy lifestyle that helps in maintaining balance.

Importance of Routine in Early Recovery