Recovery from addiction can be a long and difficult process, but there are many ways to stay happy and healthy in your sobriety. When you start recovery, you can replace your substance use with positive, sober behaviors that improve your quality of life. Here are seven healthy habits that can help you achieve recovery and maintain long-term sobriety:
1. Spend Time with Sober People
Recovery requires you to change many facets of your life in order to stay sober and avoid relapse. If you used to spend time with people who enabled or encouraged your substance use, you may have to find a new circle of sober friends. Surrounding yourself with sober, positive people is one of the best ways to achieve and maintain recovery. When you can have fun and make meaningful connections with others without relying on drugs or alcohol, recovery becomes much easier.
You can connect with sober people at 12-step meetings or other support groups. Community clubs and meetup groups are also good places to meet sober people who share your interests. If you have a healthy and supportive relationship with your family, try to spend quality time with them as you take steps toward recovery.
2. Identify Your Triggers
Substance use disorders are complex, and it can be hard to identify the specific triggers that cause cravings. Everyone in recovery has certain situations, places, or feelings that increase their risk of relapse. Identifying your triggers allows you to avoid and prevent them, which is a major step toward recovery.
Here are some of the most common triggers in addiction recovery:
- Major life events
- Reminiscing about the past
- Relationship problems
- Environments where substances are available
Sometimes, triggering situations are unavoidable during recovery. If you’re aware of your triggers, you’ll feel more prepared to handle them. When you feel a craving, remember that you don’t have to act on it and that you can remove yourself from the situation.
3. Watch for Signs of Relapse to Maintain Sobriety
A seemingly small thought or urge can build up until it leads to a relapse. Understanding the warnings signs of a relapse can help you reverse the situation before you use a substance.
The first stage of a relapse is emotional problems like anxiety, depression, and moodiness. Although you may not have any conscious cravings or urges, handling these negative emotions is critical to your recovery.
The next stage is mental relapse. You may find yourself considering using substances again, resuming addictive thought patterns, or seeking out situations where substances are available. If you recognize that you’re experiencing a mental relapse, you can seek help from a support group, sober friend, or counselor before you use a substance.
Relapse is particularly common during post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, which can occur six months to two years after you become sober. PAWS causes symptoms like depression, anxiety, mood swings, and fatigue, which can hinder your recovery. Be prepared to experience these symptoms, and reach out for professional help if they become a threat to your sobriety.
4. Take Care of Your Physical Health
Healthy living is especially important during addiction recovery. Substance abuse can take a toll on your physical health, so taking care of yourself should be one of your top priorities. Try to exercise a few times a week and get eight hours of sleep every night.
Staying healthy can also strengthen your mental health and reduce the chances of a relapse. It’s easy to become anxious, irritable, or overwhelmed when you’re feeling tired or under the weather. You may feel tempted to revert back to substance abuse as a coping mechanism for these feelings.
Nutrition plays a vital role in mental health and recovery. Your brain needs carbohydrates to have energy to function. Carbs and protein both aid in the brain’s production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, that boost and stabilize your mood. Other nutrients contribute to brain health as well, so eating balanced and complete meals can help you stay happy and healthy during recovery.
5. Learn to Manage Stress
Stress management is one of the best recovery skills you can develop to stay sober permanently. The best course of action is to avoid stressful situations by budgeting your time wisely, not taking on too many commitments, and not engaging with people who make you feel stressed or anxious.
However, even when you make great efforts to limit the stress in your life, stress is sometimes unavoidable. You should have a stress-reduction plan in place so that you stay sober and avoid turning to substances to escape. Everyone experiences and manages stress differently, but many people find that deep breathing reduces the physical symptoms of stress in the moment.
Having a healthy, active coping mechanism readily available to you can help with your recovery as well. Here are some things you can do to calm down when you feel stressed:
- Spend time in nature
- Listen to music
- Talk to a close friend or family member
- Write in a journal
6. Follow a Schedule
Starting recovery will change many aspects of your daily life and routine, and this sudden shift in your lifestyle can feel very overwhelming. A schedule provides you with some structure and predictability in your day, which makes it much easier to stay sober and face recovery head-on.
Try to develop a daily routine that includes a balance of work, chores, self-care, and relaxation. However, keep in mind that unexpected events can happen, so you may not be able to follow your routine every single day. While a schedule is a great tool during recovery, it can become unhealthy if you become too attached to it.
7. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation has a number of benefits in addiction recovery. It allows you to notice your thoughts without judgment, which can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment without worrying about the past or looking ahead to the future. The meditation usually starts by focusing on the breath. Then, you may turn your attention to sights, sounds, or physical sensations you’re experiencing. As thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them without lingering on them.
Mindfulness may feel difficult at first, but it gets easier over time. You can start with short meditation sessions of 10 to 15 minutes and then gradually increase the length as you become more comfortable with the practice.
Start or Continue Your Journey Toward Recovery and Sobriety
Recovery and sobriety require hard work, but the results are worth it. If you build up these habits, you can strengthen your physical and mental health and improve your quality of life.
Dr. Howard Samuels is a licensed therapist serving clients in the Los Angeles area. He specializes in addiction recovery and the other mental health struggles that often occur alongside substance use disorders. To start or continue your journey toward recovery and sobriety, reach out to Dr. Samuels today.