Addiction is an earth-shattering disease, damaging the lives of those who survive it. It removes opportunity, steals health and personal freedom, and threatens the very existence of the addicted person every day.
Medical and psychotherapeutic treatment is the first step to stabilizing in recovery. Here patients can learn how to safely stop using their drug of choice and then begin to work through underlying issues that may be driving their use of substances while learning new coping mechanisms to manage stress. This will take anywhere from a few weeks to a year of steady and intensive treatment, but eventually, the goal of treatment is for the patient to transition into independent living – and still remain drug-free.
Once established in a new home with a job and a new set of friends, it’s important to continue engaging in the therapies that were helpful during treatment, never giving up on working through or treating co-occurring mental health issues and never stagnating in recovery.
In order to get the most out of recovery and further your chances of remaining sober without relapse for years to come, here are three simple things you can do that will not only aid you in recovery but also improve your overall quality of life.
There is likely a laundry list of little and large lifestyle changes that you know you “should” do in order to feel your best. Though it may seem like a lot of work to make some of these changes, like treatment for addiction, each one will serve to help you feel better physically and mentally and improve your ability to function. Some of the most important include:
- Quit smoking: Smoking cigarettes often goes along with drug and alcohol abuse but you aren’t doing drugs or drinking anymore, and now is the time to quit smoking as well. Some studies have shown that quitting smoking may actually improve your ability to remain clean and sober –and that’s in addition to all the evidence that it will also remove the increased threat of certain diseases, including cancer, that hovers over every smoker. If you find it difficult to quit smoking on your own, there are support groups and therapists who can help.
- Get better sleep: Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time every morning can help to improve your quality of sleep as well as decrease the amount of time you spend falling asleep at night and the amount of time it takes you to feel fully awake in the morning.
- Eat more healthfully: When you eat nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and other proteins, and you cut back on saturated and trans fats and sugars, your mental and physical health improves. You become leaner and your body processes food into energy more efficiently, which means that you have the energy to not only go about your day but also to engage in exercise and other healthful activities. If you’re not sure what that actually means when it comes to meal planning and preparation, a nutritional counselor can assist you.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day: A little bit of cardio and a few weight-bearing exercises every day will do an amazing amount of good for your physical health as well as your mental balance. If you need help determining what to do first or how to manage an ongoing – and interesting – exercise program, or if you have a physical injury or disability to deal with, a personal trainer can assist you.
Higher Quality Relationships
Some say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and while the specific number may not be exact, the general notion is valid. Most people are influenced by their environment and the attitudes and behaviors of the people who are around them the most.
How does that affect you in your life in recovery? It’s a reminder that it’s important to surround yourself with positive people who are supportive of you as a person and supportive of your journey in recovery. If you are constantly around people who drink and get high, it’s fair to say that you will more often find yourself dealing with cravings to join them than if you were to spend a great deal of time around people who were busy doing things that you find interesting and engaging. Making sure that the five (or four or seven) people you spend the most time with are drug-free people who are doing things with their lives that you respect and with an attitude that is positive can help you to do things that are drug-free and positive as well.
Your relationship with yourself is arguably the most important one in your life, especially if you are in recovery. No matter what the people around you choose to do or whether those relationships ultimately succeed or fail, at the end of the day, you are always going to have your relationship with yourself.
Learning how to love yourself, respect yourself, and value yourself is essential for long-term recovery. You can do everything else right but if you are unable to process through underlying issues of self-loathing, guilt, or shame, then sobriety will be far more difficult than it has to be – if it’s even possible.
No matter what you have done in the past, no matter how many people you have hurt, and no matter how others feel about your past choices, the fact is that those things do not need to have any bearing on the choices you make today. If you feel that it is important to engage with the past on any level, let it be the driving force toward making positive change in your life, to being a stronger and more caring person going forward and helping the people around you to live better, fuller lives. You deserve sobriety, and the world can be a better place simply because you’re here doing the things that you feel called to do in recovery.