Relapse Prevention: Self Care – Routine and Structure
In a previous blog we explored the relapse prevention skills needed to monitor people, places and things. This blog will be dedicated to the importance of routines, which are important for re-establishing good habits, structure and consistency.
Routines and daily schedules can easily become chaotic or nonexistent when someone is in active addiction. Life often becomes the barrier while mood or mind altering substances serves as the main coping mechanism. During early recovery, unplanned downtime, boredom and restlessness can oftentimes lead individuals to “get stuck in their heads,” causing them to fall down the rabbit hole of negative self-talk, worries, self blame, guilt and other non-healthy, inner dialogues. Once there, the uncomfortable feelings that accompany these thoughts can trigger cravings and urges. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities work to establish some semblance of routine with the introduction of group counseling, individual counseling and other activities of daily living. Unfortunately, 28 days is usually not enough time to establish new, consistent patterns of functioning. Whether you are fresh out of a rehabilitation facility, attending an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment center or working a 12 step program, it is essential to have a schedule. Start by planning out the simplest of tasks; showering, eating, going to meetings/treatment, exercise, running errands, household chores and quality time with friends and family. Use a planner or smartphone application to track/plan your activities. Be thoughtful about downtime by choosing relaxing activities that are engaging; a hobby, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, reading and other mind-stimulating activities. If a craving arises, notice it, but realize that you do not have to act. Re-direct your attention to something meaningful or call someone in your support system. Be open about your struggles and know that cravings are time limited and will subside.
It may seem like over-kill to be so structured, but it is important that the brain be given the best opportunity to equalize it’s overstimulated reward/pleasure areas. Life at this stage may seem boring, overwhelming, anxiety filled or all of the above. Recognize that these feelings are part of the process and that everyone who has struggled through early recovery has faced the discomforts of this transition.
As more time passes, the recovering individual will find it easier to be with themselves. The simple things will be more meaningful and the time in between cravings and urges will continue to grow. Be patient with yourself. You didn’t reach the height of your addiction over night and you will not heal over night, but healing is certainly possible.