Therapy is a crucial part of recovery, but it’s not the only part. Addiction is a disease that overtakes every aspect of your life, and you’ll do well if you think of recovery in the same way. Recovery must be present in every area of your life. It’s not just something you deal with in therapy.
Your counselor may advise on strategies to incorporate recovery into your life, but the following are common ways you can make the most out of recovery outside of therapy.
- Ask for family support – This can be a challenge for many addicts because addiction affects the entire family. In some cases, addiction may have caused what seems like irreparable damage. Still, family support is a crucial part of the recovery process. Depending on your situation, asking for support may begin with asking for forgiveness. Let your family members know that you’re serious about recovery and you need their help and support.
- Adopt new healthy habits – Most people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol are used to habits that revolve around those things. You need to shed those habits completely and try something new. Think of this as a time of hope and self-discovery. Have you always been interested in painting, martial arts or graphic design? Now is the time to jump in with both feet. Downtime can be dangerous for a recovering addict, so try to immerse yourself with healthy habits that can keep you occupied.
- Find a peer mentor – Even if you have an amazing support system in your friends and family, it always helps to have someone who has walked a mile in your shoes. This person understands you and your struggles in a way that others never will. When you’re having an especially bad day, a peer mentor can share tips and experiences to help keep you on track. If you don’t know anyone like this, seek out a group or 12-step program in your area. Here, you’ll have access to many potential peer mentors.
- Avoid temptation – If you are a recovering alcoholic, avoiding that temptation isn’t always easy or even possible, but you can limit your exposure. Carefully consider your RSVP to parties where drinking is the main event. If you feel you can decline, do so. Otherwise, come up with a plan for getting through the night sober. This may include bringing a supportive buddy to hold you accountable and/or bringing a fancy mocktail to keep you from the feeling that you’re missing out.
- Evaluate your surroundings – Take a good look at your friends and the people in your home. If they are abusing drugs or alcohol, find a new home and some new friends. Exposing yourself to substances of abuse within your home is just asking for trouble. It can be tough to let go of good friends but know that it isn’t necessarily bye for good. Just like you did, that person has a chance to recover and live a healthy life alongside you. But remember that it must be their choice.
- Volunteer – When you’re in recovery, you may find that you have a lot more free time than you imagined. This can be a dangerous thing. Instead of obsessing over your recovery goals and pressures, make good use of your time by helping others. You’ll keep your mind occupied, work on social skills and gain confidence.
- Learn how to handle stress – Substance abuse is the go-to stress reliever for addicts, and that poses a problem in the stressful recovery process. There are a few reasons why stress is such a big problem in recovery. First, your brain is learning to readjust to handle basic functions without substances of abuse. This can cause the brain to produce too much or too little of the chemicals needed to handle stress. This leaves recovering addicts physically ill-equipped to deal with stressful situations. Second, the process is stressful. Your body and mind are yearning for something that you have to avoid. That causes a natural stress response. Because stress is a bigger problem during recovery than ever, it’s crucial to have a stress-management plan. This may include daily meditation, yoga, exercise or breathing techniques. Don’t be caught off-guard in a stressful situation.
- Understand the mechanics of relapse – No one starts recovery planning for a relapse. Still, they do happen. They happen so often, in fact, that some people consider them part of the recovery process. A temporary relapse is not failure. One slip does not derail all your previous efforts. It is a setback, but it is one you can recover from. If you relapse, understand the importance of forgiving yourself and getting back to recovery. Talk to your counselor about the slip and avoid the circumstances surrounding the relapse in the future.
Just like addiction, recovery must be all-encompassing. Think about these eight tips and other ways you can incorporate recovery into your life outside of therapy.