One of the most important things to remember when finding a new normal in recovery is that recovery is a journey. You’ll never be fully recovered; instead, you’ll always be actively working on staying in recovery.
Setting Expectations for Recovery
The Solida Foundation goes into depth about the concept of recovery being a journey. With that mindset, you may be able to better handle any missteps along the way. If you’re always looking for happiness or success at a certain benchmark, you’ll always be chasing an unattainable goal. Recovery isn’t a certain number of sober days on the calendar or cessation of struggle. With realistic expectations, you may find it easier to establish a new normal on your recovery journey.
Tips for Establishing a New Normal
Solbriety shares tips for staying clean in recovery, including volunteering and reconnecting with loved ones. Here are some other tips for establishing and sustaining a new normal in recovery.
Identify and Avoid Triggers
Through therapy, you’ve probably identified what triggers your addictive behaviors. As you transition into the life of an actively sober person, make sure you’re avoiding those triggers. This may mean finding a new line of work to avoid excessive stress or cutting ties with people associated with your previous substance abuse.
As hard as it is to move or start a new job, it may be the best way to avoid triggers and help support you in sobriety.
If your triggers are related to your emotional responses to situations, be sure to address alternative coping mechanisms with your therapist. You can’t always avoid a situation that makes you feel sad or angry, but you can retrain your brain to respond differently. Instead of self-medicating when these feelings arise, practice different coping strategies until you find the right one for you.
Change Your Routines
Maybe you don’t need to leave your job or change your group of friends, but you need to change other routines in your life. If you used to come home and unwind with unhealthy amounts of alcohol or gambling, that needs to be replaced with something less harmful.
To avoid the temptation to engage in addictive behavior, you might need to change your route to and from work or school. Your evening rituals might need to include a phone call with a friend or your sponsor instead of a glass of wine. Hit the gym instead of the bar on weekends, or journal to get invasive thoughts out of your head vs numbing them with drugs.
Once you decide on the routines you’re going to eliminate, write them down. This leads to the next tip for establishing your new normal in sobriety: structure.
Structure Your Days
Set micro goals throughout the day so you stay focused and structured. Idle hands can easily get into trouble, so take charge of your schedule to avoid potential triggers. Since overscheduling could also lead to relapse due to the stress of all your commitments, practice saying “no” when necessary to preserve your sobriety. Make time every week for the following:
- Adequate sleep
- Self-improvement activities (therapy, spiritual practices, education, etc….)
- Group therapy
You might benefit from having the same schedule every day or assigning certain activities to a specific day each week. Whatever the case, find the form of structure that works best for you and stick with it. If you want to successfully change your routines and avoid your triggers, having structure can aid you in doing so.
Eat Well and Exercise
Your new normal should consist of a healthy diet and exercise routine. Bring your body and mind back to optimal health with the fuel and movement it needs to thrive. It may take time to unlearn unhealthy habits you developed before sobriety, but it’s well worth the effort.
No single diet is necessary for helping support you in your new normal, so don’t get too fixated on what you eat. Rather, give more consideration to meal preparation and enjoyment
While aerobic exercise is recommended by experts, your exercise regimen could be as simple as a daily walk around the neighborhood or an online yoga class. There isn’t enough data to determine if certain exercises or amounts are more beneficial to people in recovery, so aim for up to 150 minutes of moderate activity each week (or 75 minutes of intense activity).
How Exercise Supports Sobriety
- It reduces cortisol production (which reduces stress)
- It can support better sleep
- It boosts serotonin production (which improves mood)
- It supports a healthy immune system
- It can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
- It can replace triggers that lead to relapse
Regularly engaging in physical activity that you enjoy can curb your cravings, and ease withdrawal symptoms as well. Be sure you’re not substituting one addictive activity for another; keep your exercise routine in check to avoid replacing substance abuse with overexercising or disordered eating.
Build a Support Network
One of the best ways to cultivate a new normal in recovery is to have a support network you can rely on. Being around people in a similar situation validates your triumphs and struggles, and gives you people to talk to when you need extra strength to make sobriety-supporting decisions.
Ways to Build a Support Network in Recovery
- Attend 12-Step programs
- Join parenting groups (online or in person)
- Find support groups for your diagnosis (depression, anxiety, etc…)
- Engage in hobbies (unrelated to recovery)
- Take group exercise classes
Always use caution when developing relationships in recovery, as you want to invest your time and trust in people who will support you without hindrance. Additionally, if you attempt to rebuild relationships with those you may have impacted while living with addiction, know that it may take time to regain trust.
Give Yourself Grace
Giving yourself grace is a lot easier said than done. However, having patience with yourself is crucial to your success in recovery. There will be times it feels too much and times you may relapse. This is a normal, albeit frustrating, part of recovery for many. Remember to set realistic expectations for yourself and take life one moment at a time.