Many people mistakenly associate the word routine with an activity that is boring and repetitive. When you’re in recovery, however, the word takes on entirely different connotations. The truth is that establishing and adhering to a routine can help someone in recovery in many different ways. What are those ways? How does routine help in recovery? Let’s take a look at some of them.
Routine Helps Ease Anxiety
If you wake up each morning and don’t have a plan for the day, no matter how good your intentions, you may stray off into directions you hadn’t intended. Just drifting along adds to a sense of unease and anxiety is likely to increase. When you don’t know what you’re going to be doing any given hour – or even first thing in the morning – you’re stacking the deck against effective recovery.
Instead, if you have a routine that you’ve established as productive and that fits within your overall recovery plan, stick to it. This is especially important in the early phase of recovery, during the first few weeks and months. This is the time when your body and mind are still in the healing stages from your addiction or dependence on substances or other addictive behavior. You need the predictability of knowing exactly what you’re going to do each day to help ease your transition into longer-lasting recovery. Being able to look at your daily routine helps allay some of the anxiety that comes when you’re unprepared for the day ahead.
Routine Helps Promote Stability
When someone is said to be in recovery, the best thing that can happen is that they begin to exhibit stability. This comprehends all aspects of the individual’s life, from having and going to a job on a daily basis to taking appropriate care of oneself and family. When others regard you as stable, it means they feel they can count on you to do what you say, to handle your responsibilities without being prodded or nagged, to tend to your obligations with a sense of accomplishment.
Stability isn’t something that someone else can give you. While you may be offered a job or be welcomed back to your existing job after treatment, it’s up to you to make good on doing the work that job entails. In other words, you have the opportunity to succeed – but you also have the choice to fail. How do you succeed? In the sense of promoting stability, success comes from the routine of being on time for work each day, doing what’s expected of you, looking for ways to be more efficient – without putting yourself at risk of being over-committed, and being a resourceful, productive employee.
Routine also entails having a regular regimen that you do at home, such as preparing meals for the family and/or for yourself. It encompasses making sure you pay your bills consistently, having established a time when you take care of this obligation. Also included in routines you have at home is laundry, cleaning, restocking food items, taking care of or having necessary repairs done, and other household chores.
While it’s you that establishes your routine, it isn’t only you that benefits. Your loved ones benefit from the increased stability that your routine helps promote. Your employer and fellow employees benefit from being able to count on you. Your friends benefit because they can see that you are indeed healing and progressing in recovery and this makes it easier for them to interact with you on a healthy basis.
Routine Adds to Your Self-Confidence
Let’s say you’ve created a daily routine and have started to follow it. Day by day you do exactly what you have on your list. At first, it’s probably hard to stick to some of the items on your routine. You may feel exhausted or unable to follow through on some, especially if it means that you have to put yourself out or interact with others. Maybe you are uncertain of your communication skills and still tend to shy away from contact, especially with strangers or persons in authority (like your boss).
Here are some suggestions how to handle routine in the early days of recovery. The trick with routines is to not overburden yourself with too much to begin with. Start off slow. During the first month or so of recovery, just tend to what’s absolutely necessary. This means taking good physical care of yourself by eating nutritious and well-balanced meals. Eat three meals a day – no skipping breakfast. Get some physical exercise daily, even if that means walking down the block and back or taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Be sure to get a full 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This helps establish a rhythm in your body and gets your inner bodyclock attuned to the cyclical pattern.
Limit your extracurricular activities and engagements during the first three months of recovery. The exception is attending your 12-step meetings. These are absolutely critical to your routine and you need to front-load your attendance (attending as many as you need to, two, three or more times a day) during the first 90 days of sobriety.
Each day as you move forward in your recovery by adhering to your routine you will be adding to your self-confidence. You will feel that you are better able to do what’s on your daily list. Gradually, you can add more items or activities to your daily or weekly routine. You may wish to enroll in a course to gain a new job skill, start or finish a degree, join a club with other people who have the same interests (recreational, leisure, educational, and so on).
Remember, start slow and be consistent with doing your routine. It will get easier and parts of it will become second-nature. You won’t need to think about doing your routine. You’ll just do it. That also adds to your self-confidence and is a huge boost toward effective long-term recovery.
Routine Gives You Something to Rely On in Times of Crisis
Everyone knows that being in recovery is not all good times. There are going to be days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed, when you’ve had too much stress at work, or any one of a thousand minor crises add up to be overwhelming. Maybe you’re confronted with a major crisis, one that you feel knocks you back and threatens your hard-earned sobriety. Having a routine that you can turn to gives you something concrete that you can do that is positive and will help you make it through the rough spots.
Let’s say that you’ve gotten some very bad news. You may have lost your job due to downsizing or you’re falling behind in mortgage payments and the bank is threatening foreclosure. Maybe you or someone in your family needs medical treatment for a serious illness or there’s been an accident and the medical bills are piling up. You don’t know what to do about all these things happening at once – just when you’ve started to feel good about maintaining your sobriety.
At times like these, use your routine to help get your equilibrium back. Call or go see your sponsor and discuss what’s going on with you. Go to your 12-step meetings. Talk with your loved ones and/or your boss to see how things can be worked out. Don’t just stew in your misery.Definitely don’t internalize what’s happening as your fault. That is counter-productive. Don’t even think about returning to drugs or alcohol as a way of easing your troubles. That’s a dead-end of the first order. You’ve come too far to relapse now.
Even if you feel tempted, this doesn’t signal a slip. Everyone in recovery will be tempted now and then. Some will feel the urge sooner than others, but everyone experiences situations where they think that just one drink or hit will help. Redouble your contacts with your sponsor and go to meetings back to back, if that’s what it takes. This routine has been proven to keep many in recovery from relapsing. It can save you in times of need as well.
Routine Helps Prepare You for More Responsibility
No one wants to remain status quo. We all want to make progress, to see something come from all the effort we’re exerting. This is as true for those in recovery as it is for everyone else. You’re sticking to your routine, doing the best you can day in and day out, and you want to see where all this is leading.
Sure, your overall goal is to maintain your sobriety. You’re in this for the long haul. But life is more than just refraining from using alcohol or drugs or engaging in other addictive behavior. Truly effective long-term recovery means that you have created a whole new life in recovery, one that encompasses creating goals and following your dreams. It’s about finding joy in life, being of service to others, feeling at peace and secure in your own sobriety. It’s about being able to love and be loved in return. It’s about sharing your love with your children, helping them prepare for their own exciting life journey.
When you stick to your routine, you will know when you are ready to tackle more responsibility. You will feel when you’re capable of asking your boss for increased responsibility. If things are coming easier to you at work because you’ve learned how to manage your time, not get distracted, how to compartmentalize and prioritize tasks, you’ll be well equipped to go to the next level. That may mean working toward a promotion, asking for additional projects or a chance to show your talent. You will have the self-confidence of your months of routine at work, and the results of your steadily improving productivity. This is bound to impress your boss and others who may be in a position to help you move ahead. In fact, routine may be one of the best ways to show others that you are not only sincere about your commitment to sobriety (those who know that you are in recovery) but also to demonstrate that you are a totally viable candidate for more responsibility.
Routine Can Lead to Increased Self-Esteem
Along with the increased self-confidence that you receive from sticking to your routine and doing it well, routine can also lead to an increased sense of self-esteem. Lack of self-esteem is a big hurdle to overcome by many in recovery from addiction. It’s more prevalent for some than for others, but every person in recovery suffers from some level of low self-esteem. They’ve been down, maybe did some very bad things, lost home and family and job and feel that they’re starting over. They’re at rock bottom. That’s about as low self-esteem as you can get.
But routine is a ladder from which you can crawl up from the bottom. Rung by rung, day by day, doing your routine is something that you alone can do to convince yourself that you are worth it, you can do it, there is hope for you.
Note that if you’ve been abused or a victim of violence or suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, it may take considerable time to boost your self-esteem. You may benefit from additional counseling or a form of psychotherapy known as eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The EMDR Institute (//www.emdr.com/index.htm) is a great resource for finding out about EMDR, FAQs, and other resources. The Ranch uses EMDR as an integral part of trauma treatment.
Routine Can Add Joy to Your Life
When you feel good about your contributions in your daily life, this leads to an overall sense of accomplishment, deserved pride and a sense of well-being. For those of us in recovery, routine can help by boosting our supply of self-confidence, self-esteem, increasing our stability, allaying our anxieties, providing a support in times of crisis, and ultimately adding joy to our lives.
No, it’s not going to happen overnight. It may take many months of adhering to a routine for you to begin to feel – and see – progress. But it will come, if you stick to it. Always be in a mode to recognize and receive opportunity that presents itself to you. Opportunity may be hidden within some of your daily routine, or it may appear in the course of you pursuing some new element that you’ve decided to add to your daily regimen. You will meet people who may be instrumental in introducing you to an opportunity you’d never have known about or considered yourself capable of. Be receptive to what’s positive in your growth in recovery, in your ongoing quest to learn and be and see and live. Tell yourself that you will feel joy in life. Greet each day with anticipation and optimism and a commitment to doing what’s best and right for you and your ongoing recovery.
Bottom line: Routine helps in recovery in many ways, some minor, some major, and all important.