By Julie Bakley, MSW, LCSW, Primary Therapist, The Ranch There are different ways to get…
Living in Addiction Recovery: Great Ways to Fill Your Newfound Free Time
For Adi, what began as alcohol abuse, marijuana experimentation and cocaine addiction quickly progressed into a full-blown crystal meth addiction. For more than five years, the drug became his world as he turned to it regardless of his current mood. It didn’t matter if he was happy, sad, bored, tired, or alert, crystal meth quickly became the single constant in his life. However, once Adi entered treatment, he was faced with the new challenge of how to pass the time without using drugs every day, a challenge that ultimately caused him to relapse.
Struggling with the inability to think about anything other than using again, Adi couldn’t help but look for any remnants of past drug use upon his return to work. When he discovered a bag of meth, he filled a pipe and quickly relapsed. He explained that when he stopped smoking crystal meth, figuring out what to do every day was harder than getting over the physical withdrawal symptoms.
The First Rule of Recovery
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, addiction recovery is defined as the process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. In other words, recovery doesn’t just entail stopping the use of drugs or alcohol. It also requires making important lifestyle changes in order to make it easier not to use.
Dealing With Downtime in Recovery
One of the main challenges those in recovery face is discovering how to fill the increased amount of downtime he or she now has. That makes this a great time to rediscover a once-beloved hobby or to pursue something new. These new activities, interests and friends can be an immense help in maintaining long-term sobriety. Some examples of healthy ways to pass the time after treatment include:
- Discovering new hobbies. Productive and healthy hobbies such as learning to play an instrument or taking up painting can help alleviate the cravings or boredom that may lead to relapse.
- Volunteering not only has a positive impact on others, but on you as well. The good feelings that result from accomplishing tasks that help other people can aid in avoiding the negative ones, such as anger and sadness, which may lead to relapse.
- Setting goals. Having something to look forward to or reach for can help motivate someone in recovery to stick with his or her sobriety.
- Taking a class to learn something new. Similar to discovering a new hobby, learning something new can be fulfilling as well as a healthy, productive use of time.
- Exercising regularly. Regular exercise can result in both physical and psychological benefits for someone in recovery, such as improved muscle strength, increased energy, improved mood and sharpened mental skills.
In Adi’s case, after his relapse, he decided to spend his newfound free time going back to school in the hopes of receiving a master’s degree in psychology. He ended up excelling to the point that he was accepted into UCLA’s psychology graduate program, which is known in academic circles as one of the best in the world.
Unoccupied downtime can be a threat to recovery. Finding new healthy ways to pass the newly acquired downtime, such as Adi did, will not only help someone avoid relapse, but also incorporate lifelong healthy routines into his or her lifestyle.