Media marketing campaigns love to challenge people to break out of their routines, but for people who need stability in their lives, a positive routine can be an invaluable asset. This is particularly true for recovering addicts. Prior routines might have included bar hopping, hangovers, drug refills, buying, using and crashing out, while social routines might have exclusively involved other users. These routines must change, but it is not just about removing the bad. New routines are about filling the day with positive activities that reinforce the recovery. They are about promoting health, reducing boredom and restoring purpose. They provide a stable environment to improve or restore emotional stability, cognitive function and recovery skillsets. How important is routine in recovery? It depends on the person and the routine, but the stability it provides reduces risk and promotes growth during the early stages of recovery.
What Is Meant by Routine
At its most basic, a routine is a set course of procedure. It might include work, household chores, exercise and other commonplace tasks done on a regular basis. In residential rehab, the routine might include group therapy, individual counseling and optional activities like exercise or holistic treatments. After the primary treatment, recovering addicts need to reengage normal daily activities while continuing to improve their life tools, coping skills and mental and emotional health. In additional to work and family responsibilities, the routine should include recovery support meetings, speaking with your recovery sponsor and possibly ongoing therapy sessions. Furthermore, it often helps to establish set sleep and eating times and to fill any gaps in the day that might otherwise produce boredom or loneliness.
The hope, however, is that the routine will involve more than bedtimes and support meetings. People who suggest that routines stifle creativity miss that the most helpful routines often include creative expression, physical activity and new hobbies. This might include learning or continuing to paint, sing, create, write, perform, hike, play sports, ride horses and other activities that enhance a person’s spiritual and social health. Many of these activities can also help recoveries indirectly. For example, physical fitness produces natural chemicals that improve mood and help restore receptors in the brain reward system that the substance likely harmed.
The Pros and Cons of Routine
For a recovering addict, a balanced and sustainable routine can help in several ways, including the following:
- Provides structure, familiarity and comfort
- Helps prevent sleep issues like insomnia
- Makes regular responsibilities more manageable
- Minimizes the opportunity for cues to trigger cravings
- Often improves productivity in many areas of life
Nevertheless, people who become overly dependent on routine risk various potential problems, including the following:
- Any deviance from the routine produces anger, stress or anxiety
- Strict adherence promotes obsessive thoughts and behavior
- Routines take precedence over people and new responsibilities
- The person becomes unwilling to add positive new activities
- The routine begins to feel boring, restrictive and burdensome
People should change and add to their routines (ideally in consultation with a sponsor or therapist) as they grow in their recoveries. Continuing the same routine indefinitely leads to recovery plateaus that increase risk, while improved routines can address changing needs and boost motivation.
Recovery Help and Advice
If you need help with routines, recovery or any other addiction-related issue, please call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak with an admissions coordinator. We can answer questions, make recommendations and even check health insurance policies for treatment benefits. We are here to help so please call now.