Early recovery from an addiction – and any co-occurring mental health disorders – can be difficult.
This is especially true if you’ve been in rehab with a fixed daily routine and the support and accountability provided by therapists and peers. Suddenly, you are navigating life on your own again and in order to maintain a sober lifestyle there must be a massive change.
Of course, there will be times when your cravings are strong, you are triggered, or you just feel like giving up – these are all normal experiences, especially during early recovery.
The good news is that if you put a structured routine in place and follow certain simple habits every day, you will find it gets – and continues to get – a lot easier.
Here are ten daily habits you can use to replace your previously unhealthy habits, and establish a healthy routine for yourself that will aid your lifelong recovery.
It takes effort and practice. But if you start now, you’ll be reducing your chances of relapse – and you’ll be setting yourself up for long-term success. Your future self will thank you!
1. Keep it in the day
Catch your thoughts to bring yourself back to “the now” whenever you realize you’re thinking about the past or the future. It’s a real waste of energy to regret the past or worry about the future.
Neither of those negative emotions will change a thing about the past or the future. But they can change the present moment by creating negativity when what is in front of us, in the here and now, is probably fine, sometimes even very good.
If we “live” constantly in the past or the future, by letting our thoughts take over, we will miss all the good present moments. So the aim is to be living in the moment at each moment.
Aim to keep yourself “in the moment” throughout the day, as much as you can, taking it one day at a time. If one day sometimes feels too long, reduce this amount of time to what feels more manageable to you, particularly in the early stages. For example, you can make it one hour or even a minute at a time.
Developing this habit is especially useful for giving up an addiction. Think, just for this day/hour/minute I won’t have a drink (or whatever the addiction is).
Living in the moment like this will also boost your energy levels as you won’t be wasting any valuable energy on negative feelings such as anxiety or remorse. This means you’re more likely to achieve goals and get done what you need or wish to do – which will generate more positive feelings.
2. Write a gratitude list
Have an attitude of gratitude from the second you open your eyes each morning. Many people find that writing ten things they are grateful for is a great way to start the day.
You can also write the ten things at bedtime, to keep them inside as you sleep. Then read through that list again on waking up.
Gratitude is a very effective way of learning to think in a positive manner – when you might have been focusing on negative thoughts and lack for many years, if not all your life.
Focusing on negative things in life means we are more likely to have negative feelings, which can be behind some addictions. For example, if we feel lonely, angry, fearful, or depressed we are more likely to want to change the way we feel. We may turn to things such as alcohol, substances or a behavioral addiction (like shopping, sex, gambling, food [often sugar] or workaholism) to numb the feelings or block them out altogether.
So start practicing gratitude every day. If you find yourself struggling at any time of the day you can read your gratitude list again or write a new one. Negative states of being simply cannot coexist alongside gratitude.
3. Avoid feeding yourself negativity
This follows on from developing an attitude of gratitude, which is much easier to do if we don’t bombard ourselves with negativity.
This is probably most important to do first thing in the morning because we can set ourselves up to be in a positive mood that will sustain us throughout the day ahead.
So, as much as possible, resist looking at social media, reading a newspaper or watching the news when you first wake up. Be aware that the news typically focuses on negative events from around the world, 24/7. As well, realize that scrolling endlessly through social media can bring up a whole range of negative emotions such as envy, anger and self-pity.
If you need or want to be aware of world events or what your friends and social media contacts are saying and doing, allocate a fixed time later in the day to catch up – and stick to that time slot.
You can also find alternative online content to view that is more nourishing for your wellbeing, like how-to videos for a new hobby, self-care ideas, motivational podcasts, guided meditations, comedy shows, and so on.
4. Choose positive people
For even more positivity in your daily routine, choose to spend your valuable time with people who support and encourage you. Choose to cut out negative, critical and unsupportive people.
Regarding family members, it can be difficult to cut them out. But you can detach with love. This means that you still love them, but to protect yourself you are separating yourself emotionally, mentally and spiritually from what they’re saying or doing.
In some instances, it means not visiting or calling as often as previously, so that you do not “lead with the chin” to let them try to “punch” you down again.
Stay away from gossip and family politics. It’s never helpful and often behind it is just one person trying to feel superior or better than another person.
As recovery goes on, and as you get more well, you will find that you naturally don’t want to be around people who are not good for you or your ongoing recovery. As well, you will find that positive, supportive people will be more attracted to you as you become more positive and optimistic within yourself. Birds of a feather flock together.
5. Morning meditation
Gratitude can play an important part in many people’s morning meditation. But find what works best for you. It can help to follow a guided meditation when you’re first starting out and there are plenty on YouTube for beginners.
The essential part of a meditation practice is to start your day calmly and peacefully. That is, rather than loading yourself with things to do or social media or the news, instead take in the view, listen to your breath and heartbeat – be in the moment and be grateful for it. Smile!
This is all part of becoming more mindful, which can be defined as being observant without judgment.
Many people think they are failing at meditation if they drift away into thoughts about things such as work or the future. But this is perfectly normal. It’s important to realize meditation is a practice of calming your mind and observing your thoughts rather than being them.
This is a useful way of starting to be aware that we have a choice over every one of our thoughts, which ones we let in and which ones need to be sent away or released – especially those that are self-sabotaging or negative in any way.
Many people in early addiction recovery will pray too. It has been said that prayer is asking, and meditation is listening.
6. Exercise regularly
In addition to being beneficial for us in a physical sense, exercise releases our natural feel-good chemicals and can have beneficial effects in reducing anxiety and stress levels.
When we begin to feel and see the physical benefits, it will also help us to feel better about ourselves. It’s a real self-confidence boost.
Aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Mix it up too, so you don’t get bored doing the same thing. Try a walk around the block, a bike ride with friends, swimming, gardening, a round of golf, a game of tennis, a yoga class, gym session, or even a dance around the kitchen!
It’s important to exercise the mind each day, too. Read a book, watch something educational, play a board game, learn a language – there are many options to exercise our thinking and concentration.
Be aware that some people can get addicted to physical exercise. It can cause many problems, just like any addiction, so be mindful of not replacing one addiction with another.
7. Read the Just For Today card
First produced in 1978 by Alcoholics Anonymous on a small white card (and now available to read online), the Just For Today card is a slight adaptation of a column originally written by Boston Globe writer Frank Crane (published in the 1920s).
It is basically nine elegantly written points that, if incorporated into someone’s general everyday living, will enhance that person’s life – and everybody’s around them as well.
Many people read this card first thing in the morning, and then do their best to live their life according to the words on it.
A great number of people in early addiction recovery carry the card with them wherever they go. It can be read at any time of day, for example, if you’re having cravings, troubling thoughts, or are triggered by a life event – and can help you quickly get back on track.
8. Positive affirmations
Especially in early recovery from addiction, it can be extremely valuable to read positive affirmations. Many people have found that reading them in front of a mirror is particularly beneficial.
This is even, or perhaps especially, if you do not feel like doing it or do not really believe what you are saying. It’s faking it to make it.
However, it’s important to keep doing it every day and trust in the process. One day you will realize you actually believe the words – and believe in the person in the mirror who is saying them.
Plenty of suggestions for positive affirmations can be found online, but here are some examples that can be especially helpful for those in early addiction recovery. (Of course, you can always create your own affirmations, to make them personal to you.)
- Each day, I’m getting better.
- I can – and I will.
- I’m worthy of wonderful things.
- I like the person who I’m becoming.
- Every one of my problems has a positive solution.
- I carry on because I believe in my journey.
- I’m enjoying my recovery, one moment and one day at a time.
- I am absolutely deserving of love from myself and other people.
- I’m open to learning new things that will benefit my recovery and growth.
- I choose to be around people who are supportive and positive.
9. Eat and sleep well
Good nutrition and quality sleep are essential during early addiction recovery.
Eat at regular times and include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Enjoy learning about foods that are best for recovery and trying out new recipes.
Take your time when eating, savor every bite, and chew slowly and sufficiently. Ensure that eating is a pleasurable experience that you look forward to at set times each day. It’s important to sit down, relax, take your time, and be in good company. If you’re eating alone, play background music or a listen to a podcast – rather than staring at a screen!
All of this will mean the food you eat is digested properly and you’ll get the maximum value of nutrients and vitamins, which will help physically, mentally and emotionally.
Similarly, sleeping well and at a regular time each night will help. It might be difficult to sleep at first in early recovery from addiction, because in many cases the drink or drugs were used as a way of “sleeping” – although more accurately it was “passing out”.
It will get easier as time goes on and your body adjusts. There are many positive methods to help if you have trouble sleeping to guarantee a quality night’s sleep.
10. Reach out for help
While this might not be a daily habit, reaching out for support whenever you need it is an essential habit to develop for those in early addiction recovery.
The importance of support during the recovery process cannot be overstated. Going it alone is possible, but isolation and lack of connection with others can put you at greater risk of relapse.
Reaching out for help takes courage. Consider that it is a sure sign of strength rather than any weakness.
Make it a habit to ask your support network for help when you need it, including trusted friends, family members, local support groups, a mentor, or a recommended counselor.
Everyone in recovery today has needed to ask for support along the way – and indeed many people who are now helping in this field professionally have done so too.
Ask any one of them and they will most likely tell you it is the very best thing they did in their life. Many know that they wouldn’t be alive without it.
How can Tikvah Lake help?
We will take our time to listen and understand your specific needs and then outline how we can help you start recovery from addiction and any co-occurring mental health issues.
Our motivation is to help the whole person, not just treat the addiction. Our fully personalized treatment plans are created with this uppermost in mind.
Because we know that recovery is a life-long process, we also offer all our guests long-term support with our comprehensive aftercare to help you keep progressing in recovery and in life.