3 Easy Steps to Building a Routine in Early Addiction Recovery

hand writing task on daily planner. Image of a schedule with one task written down.

As a therapist, when I work with people new to addiction recovery one key piece of the puzzle is to develop a new routine. Developing a new structure and framework to guide your daily life is essential. We work to replace the old patterns of drug and alcohol use with new patterns. 

We simplify this often saying that addiction recovery requires new people, places and things. Spending time with new people, in new places, doing new things helps the brain develop new neural pathways and strengthens new habits. The goal is to develop a whole new set of behaviors that prime the brain to engage differently in the world. 

Developing a new routine acts to prime the brain to engage in the world in a different way. This is why it is important to start the daily routine first thing in the morning, thus setting the tone for the rest of the day and priming your brain to make new choices. If in active addition the day started by feeling physically sick and in withdrawal, likely the next action would be finding drugs or alcohol.

Here are a few tips to help establish a new routine that strengthens recovery:

  1. Build a morning routine:

How you start your day is important, during sleep your brain has stopped the momentum of previous thought patterns. You are waking up fresh, use this fresh start to your advantage and before you check emails, or hop on social media, set an intention for the day. Develop a spiritual practice or one focused on personal development. Perhaps prayer, meditation, journaling, or making aa gratitude list. These actions all calm the mind and enable you to make the 

2. Move your body:

There are massive benefits to daily movement for your mental health, the body produces  Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) when exercising. This  is the most prevalent growth factor in the central nervous system (CNS). It is essential for the development of the CNS and for neuronal plasticity. Neuronal plasticity is the process of cell growth in the brain. This is most beneficial non-pharmaceutical way to improve brain function, reduce depression and anxiety and improve long term addiction recovery. Schedule in a daily walk, yoga, or other exercise to maximize the benefits of exercise on the brain. 

3. Make a list of non-negotiable tasks that you need to do every day to take care of your recovery:

This list will be different for each person, if may be a 30 minute coffee break, a call to a sponsor, being sure to take medication. Take time and reflect on what are the non-negotiable things that must be done to protect your recovery. Start with a list of three items. Once you know what your non-negotiable recovery tasks are put them on the calendar everyday of the week. Writing these non-negotiable items on your calendar will help you to prioritize them over other tasks. The secondary benefit of adding these daily recovery tools to your calendar is that you get to cross them off your list when you complete each task, and that feels great!

Here are a few examples:

-Meeting attendance, meditation, and medication

-Exercise, calling a person in recovery, and journaling

-Spiritual practice, step work, and hygiene

Let us know what your three non-negotiable daily recovery tools are by commenting below.

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COVID-19 Updates from The Fearless Kind

While social distancing is necessary to stay safe and healthy during this COVID-19 pandemic, we understand the risks of isolation associated with those living with an addiction or eating disorder. The Fearless Kind is still open and accepting new patients at this time! If you or a loved one is struggling, we are here to help. While treatment is a big commitment, it may be one of the safest places to be during these challenging times.