If you or someone you know is in recovery from an addiction, you know firsthand the work and commitment it takes to stop using completely and recover your life. Unfortunately, while sobriety is hard-earned, it can be just as challenging to maintain and avoid a relapse.
However, one way to help you maintain your recovery is to circumvent your old behaviors and habits. If you don’t follow the same routine—that is, don’t spend time in the same places with the same people doing the same things—you are much less likely to fall back into your old ways.
Here are some strategies for avoiding old routines and habits for a sober life now and well into the future.
Build a New, Structured Routine
To become sober, you likely have already built in some new habits to put you on your path toward recovery. To prevent yourself from falling victim to the ways you used to handle stress and social situations, one of the most important things you can do is continue building on and maintaining those new habits.
This process begins with avoiding places and things that might make you want to use again and establishing a healthy routine and new perspectives. Especially early in your recovery, a daily or weekly routine can provide you with structure and a sense of control and comfort to combat moments of stress and restlessness.
Some sober activities that you can incorporate into your routine may include regular exercise, engaging in hobbies, discovering new interests, setting aside time for meditation or other forms of mindfulness, journaling, and engaging in individual or group therapy or support groups.
Building a new routine and adding structure to your daily life is especially helpful when you’re going through a period of change and can help establish a feeling of normalcy. Even a simple routine can be a great foundation for building even more healthy habits over time and can support your sobriety in the long-term.
There are mental and emotional benefits of following a routine as well. Committing to a routine requires self-accountability and being responsible for yourself. Taking care of yourself and managing your responsibilities can help you strengthen your self-confidence and show that you’re capable of maintaining a sober lifestyle.
When you are grappling with difficult emotions or struggling with the change in your lifestyle, following your new routine can help keep you grounded and allow you to use coping skills to get through otherwise stressful or hard days.
Besides forming a healthy default, structuring your days so that most of your time is scheduled or devoted to an activity can help you and others hold you accountable to your goals. A National Institute on Drug Abuse report on risks for recovery related to cocaine addiction supports the importance of routine, especially early in the recovery process. The report states that “order and structure can help to lessen the risk of relapse.”
Form New and Healthy Relationships
A critical component of creating healthy structure and routines is also forming new relationships. Just as you should avoid visiting the same places and activities, it’s best to avoid the people you once used with.
For instance, if you were to hang around your drug dealer or former drinking pals, you’ll likely have a tough time remaining sober. Putting yourself in the same circumstances that led you to use initially can compromise your progress and put you at risk of a relapse.
Now that you’re sober, you may have already had some realizations about your former relationships. Perhaps you now understand you formed a co-dependent relationship, had someone close to you who enabled your addiction, or simply can look back in hindsight and identify how unhealthy or toxic some of your relationships were.
Whatever the case, avoiding these unhealthy relationships can help reduce your chances of relapsing. Forming new and healthy relationships can provide you with the support system you need to remain sober.
Spending time with loved ones who support you or partaking in healthy activities and hobbies that you enjoy, where you are likely to make new friends are healthy lifestyle choices that can help you avoid triggering situations. If you have a hard time making new (and sober) friends or finding the support you need, consider joining a support group or seeing a therapist for additional support.
Another vital part of avoiding habits and routines that could cause you to relapse is identifying your triggers. To prevent relapse, you must understand the external triggers—people, places, situations, and things—and internal triggers—feelings and thoughts—that evoke cravings or you associate with your addiction.
For substance abuse and drug addiction, common triggers include environmental factors that induce cravings, people you know who are still drinking or using drugs, emotional distress, relationship troubles, and stress from other issues such as your job or finances.
To prevent relapse, it’s essential to identify and cope with high-risk situations. By working with a therapist, you can explore former triggers, both internal and external, that may lead to a relapse.
Just as importantly, understand what the warning signs of relapse look like. If you are intentionally seeking old habits or find yourself in high-risk situations that trigger your addiction, you may be at risk of relapsing.
Some of these signs may include seeking environments and people where drugs and alcohol are present or deviating from your new routine and engaging in compulsive or self-destructive behaviors. You may also begin rationalizing the use of drugs or alcohol to escape from emotional distress or pain or return to addictive thinking patterns.
It’s important to remember that drug and alcohol addiction are not choices; they are diseases. When you can identify these triggers and signs of relapse, you can turn to your support system, resources, and other healthy habits you’ve put in place to help you stay on your path to recovery.
The Final Word
The path to recovery can be long, winding, and challenging. Like anything worthwhile, it takes work to maintain your sobriety.
One of the most important steps you can take to maintain your addiction recovery is to avoid falling into old routines and habits. Turning to your support networks and addiction resources, like those at Right Path Addiction Treatment Centers, can help you steer clear of the people, places, and habits that might compromise your sobriety.
By identifying and avoiding triggers and forming new, healthy routines and relationships, you can avoid falling back into your old ways and continue to enjoy a sober and fulfilling life.
Native of Moldova, Dr. Zhitar is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine as well as Internal Medicine and completed his training at UPMC Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA in 2000.