If you are at your wit’s end with addiction and see no end in sight to the madness and chaos, you may be ready for recovery. Recovery from addiction is like the bitter pill with blessed effects. If you are able to use your pain and anguish as a catalyst for recovery, you will build a solid foundation for the rest of a happy life.
The proper mindset and a set of tools and tips like this article will help you to begin and maintain recovery from addiction. Some of the best tips for recovery from the twelve-step organizations of addiction recovery, as well as some of the most well-known psychotherapy and addiction recovery clinics around the world.
Acknowledge the Problem
The first step in many twelve-step addiction recovery programs is based on the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous, which states, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.”(Source: Alcoholics Anonymous) Without admitting that addiction can and has ruined your life, you cannot fully recover from the disease of addiction.
Some addiction recovery programs identify “acknowledging the problem” as a step-in recovery that all must take. Some programs split this tip up into pars as Pre-Contemplation, and Contemplation of addiction and need for recovery. Read the definitions of each of these stages of acknowledging the problem and see if you or someone you know fits into these categories:
Pre-Contemplation of Addiction and Need for Recovery
- May acknowledge substance or behavioral addiction
- Does not feel the need for recovery for addiction
- Justifies or minimizes addictive actions
- Continues in addiction
Contemplation of Addiction and Need for Recovery
- Acknowledges that the problems and repercussions of addiction outweigh the benefits
- Takes steps to find places of help
- Research disorders and health problems associated with addiction
- Verbal or written commitment to addiction recovery
(Source: Dual Diagnosis)
Change from Addict Thinking to Recovery Thinking
The mind of an addict is different than that of a sober person. Once we start a habit, the brain creates neural pathways to help support that habit or addiction. The brain’s neural pathways become well-worn roads that lead to addictive tendencies whenever there is stress, anxiety, fear, or painful stimuli. Basically, the brain is trained to use addiction and exclude all other forms of stress release.
In recovery, you can retrain your brain and even eliminate these neural pathways. This takes some time and much effort but is possible because of the brain’s neuroplasticity. The brain is changeable, even if damaged with addictive neuropathways. Beginning this process of changing the neural pathways of the addicted brain must start with understanding the difference between addict thinking and recovery thinking.
- It’s not bad if no one finds out
- I can change myself on my own
- I don’t need to tell anyone
- I can handle my own problems or force a solution to them
- I always handle things best alone
- No one is hurt by my actions
- I am not hurt by my actions
- I can’t hold onto secrets
- I am powerless to change without others helping me
- Sometimes there are things that are out of my control
- I need to stay in contact with others and seek out their help
- I have damaged the lives of others around me
- I have become damaged and disconnected from myself
(Source: Facing The Shadow)
Identify Your Triggers
In many twelve-step programs for addiction recovery, addicts are required to make a list or inventory of the deficiencies that they see as negatively impacting their lives. Alcoholics Anonymous calls this fourth step a “fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” However, triggers can be more simple than mere character faults.
What are the Triggers for Addiction?
Simply put, triggers are the people, places, things, situations, activities, or internal cues that can trigger a relapse in your sobriety from addiction—identifying the triggers of your addiction and addictive tendencies si of vital importance. Once you know what causes or triggers your addiction, you can put energy into avoiding or eliminating these things from your life.
(Source: Drug Rehab)Some of the most common triggers for addiction relapse that you may want to work on avoiding or eliminating from your life of recovery are:
- Past lovers who engaged in addiction
- Drug dealers
- Co-Workers who cause undue stress
- Family members who create anxious situations
- Spouse or family members who encourage or offer addiction to substance or behavior
- Friends who are also addicts or enablers of addiction
- Employers who cause stress
- Places where you used or bought drugs and/or alcohol
- Places of work where you meet others to support your addiction
- High-stress areas like schools, worksites, Ex-lovers’ homes
- Inhibited places such as bars, nightclubs, or concerts
- Places where you secretly hid drugs
- Items of clothing associated with addiction
- Cars you would “act out” in or do drugs in
- Memorabilia from concerts, sports events where you used
- Souveniers from places or times when in your addiction
- Drug paraphernalia
- Alcohol posters or other advertisements
- Your cell phone
- Movies that remind you of addiction or your tendencies while in addiction
- ATMs; money in general
- Stressful work situations
- Heartbreaking relationship situations
- Anxious or fearful moments
- Confrontations with lovers, friends, family
- Family get-togethers
- Random meeting of those you used to be in addition with
- Going to work
- Going home for the weekend
- Going to bed
- Getting up in the morning
- Going out with friends
- Playing sports like golf
- Going to a swimming pool
- Going to a party
- Going to a concert or other large venue event
- Getting a call from a creditor
- Being alone
- Going on a date
- Meeting new people
- While driving
- Blaming others
- Negative feelings; Fear, anger, jealousy, anxiety, hate, lonely, depressed,
- Normal feelings; bored, insecure, nervous, sad, tired, pressured, relaxed
- Positive feelings; celebratory, excitement, happiness, passion, sexual arousal, lust
(Source: Drug Rehab)
Reduce Stress in Your Life
Reducing stress is easier said than done. Telling someone to relax never works. Instead, you have to find something that works for your body, mind, spirit, and timeframe. Reducing stress in your life can come from many different avenues, and all of them require extra work at planning, portioning, or pardoning.
When you plan things, you are thinking ahead and create space in your schedule to be able to do these new things. To reduce stress by planning, you need to find some things that are external to your daily routine, which can bring your stress reduction, relaxation, and peace.
To plan appropriately, know about how much time you have during the day to devote to reducing stress with activities and practices that promote healthier stress levels. Also, decide which time of the day works best for you to put these practices and activities into place in your life.
Reducing stress in your life may be easier than you think. This article has many activities and routines that can help you to control and alleviate the stress of fighting addiction or to deal with the stress of your everyday life.
Practice Exercise and Mindfulness with Yoga
Yoga is a great tool to help to cope with the stress and anxiety of a day or week, moving so fast that you feel like you can’t breathe. Breathing to the place where there is stress or pressure in the body can help to loosen up the tension, and forward bends are particularly helpful for stress release because of the exhalation it creates in the body.
Yoga creates healthy stretching and breathing, which is known to relax the muscles of the body and promote oxygenation. Several of the best yoga techniques for reducing stress in your life are forward bends that promote deeper breathing.
- Rabbit Pose: With knees bent and chest on the ground in Child’s Pose, hold your hands together, interlacing the fingers with the hands-on your back. Lifting your hips, slowly lift your hands as far as you would like while rolling to the crown of your head.
- Standing Forward Bend: In the standing position, keep legs straight and bend forward. This is a general toe-toucher, but in yoga, the knees can be slightly bent. Breathe out on the fold, breathe in immediately as you pull your fingers up to your knees, then exhale into a long luxurious fold trying to touch your toes.
- Corpse Pose: Lying still can cradle the body, especially after a workout or stretching practice with yoga. Lie down on your back with your legs straight and heels apart slightly. Palms of hands should be on your torso, and the stress should be taken off of your lower back.
(Source: Yoga Journal)
Get Physically Fit with Exercise
The mind and body connection are wonderful to tap into and use as a way to relieve stress. Exercise, in general, can come in many styles and durations, but all of them can aid in relieving stress.
However, some mind and body connection exercises are better than others. The body is not meant to be sedentary all day, so finding an exercise that incorporates as many parts of your body may be of the best benefit. The best exercise that forces you out of your seat and using a wide array of muscle groups are:
- Tai Chi: By connecting movement with your breath, this ancient Chinese exercise is derived from martial arts and will have you moving all parts of your body in a fluid motion. Tai Chi is known as moving meditation and is great for that mind-body connection throughout your practice.
- Walking: Walking or speed walking can work many muscle groups of your body and is easy to start. You also can get the added benefit of taking care of your dog, joining your partner or children, or exploring the area surrounding your home. Walking deepens breathing, which is a stress-reduction technique and also gets you into nature, which is a pleasing and calming atmosphere.
- Lifting weights: Building muscle is not the only benefit of lifting weights as part of a workout routine. Isolating muscle groups can be therapeutic for the mind as well, helping to work on your focus and concentration as well as resiliency. There are many weightlifting routines you can find, but some of the best include isolated muscle grou[ps for certain days like this example below:
- Monday: arms and back
- Wednesday: Legs and core
- Friday: shoulders
(Source: Everyday Health)
Find your Balance and Get Grounded with Meditation
Making time for meditation is a great way to keep yourself grounded. The practice of meditation can integrate mindfulness and is best done with frequency as part of a program or habit for self-care.
Meditation has the possibility of bringing your inner peace and reducing anxiety, both of which can bring you long term health benefits as well as psychological strength that is needed for addiction recovery. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
To properly start a meditation practice for anxiety and stress reduction, you should follow a few or all of the things listed below:
- Noticing and relaxing your breathing
- Training and focusing your attention
- Seeking a quiet environment or using noise-canceling headphones
- Finding a comfortable sitting position that helps you to feel grounded and not too rigid
- Practicing deep breathing into the abdomen
- Using recorded or live guided meditation
- Using a mantra or sound for trance or transcendental meditation
- Scanning your body from top-down finding places of resistance and pressure
- Prayer mixed with meditation
- Walking while you meditate; focus on the breath while walking and not thoughts
- List gratitude you feel in your life.
Scientific and vetted studies have found that patients who use meditation to control anxiety and stress were able to sleep better, had reduced anxiety and depression levels, and even reported less pain. The psychological stress that meditation can reduce is considered mild to moderate and can even reportedly make people feel happier in general. (Source: PubMed)
Make Phone Calls to Your Recovery Network
Connection with others is a huge part of the human psychological development and processing of stress and anxiety. Making sure to have a strong network of friends or fellow in a recovery program is fundamental for a strong recovery from addiction and to reduce the stress of cravings, difficult emotions, and an urge for connection.
When you make a phone call in your recovery program, it is important to include people who know your whole story, or enough of it to help you through difficult situations and feelings. These should be people that you feel comfortable enough with to tell the truth about when you feel cravings come on or even embarrassing emotions well up. (Source: Addiction Programs)
However, the most important part of making phone calls to your support network during addiction recovery is the fact that you can connect with people who understand you and your story and may even have similar stories to yours. Talking to people with similar stories of addiction and similar wishes for sobriety and recovery can provide strength and support.
Reading Recovery Literature
Whatever addiction you are currently caught in probably has a twelve-step meeting that can apply. Almost all twelve-step meetings include a central or core reading of literature that provides the framework for meetings, sobriety, finding a sponsor, and working the steps towards recovery. Some of the most popular recovery literature that you can read, regardless of your addiction are listed below:
Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book
Every other twelve-step program takes a majority of their program material from Alcoholics Anonymous. The program has aged well and is still just as relevant today if not more so than it was during its inception. Many of the philosophies and great metaphors for living with addiction make recovery accessible for those willing to read it.
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Twelve Step recovery programs take a long time to get through, even with a great sponsor and support or guidance from a recovery community and therapist. This addition to the AA Big Book spells out many misconceptions about the steps of AA recovery that can be applied to addiction in general. There are also strategies for completing the steps and for maintaining the traditions that twelve-step recovery was founded on.
Day By Day
With daily meditations, quotes, and chances to reflect on the recovery steps of your addiction, this daily meditation book speaks to the addict who needs prompts for their recovery and reflection.
Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
Russel Brand tells it like it is as an addict in his own quirky and entertaining way. The self-proclaimed master addict gives reasons for finding peace in yourself and offers wisdom as only he can to those stuck in the rut of addiction when other programs have failed them.
The realizations from this guide with writing prompts and reflections come from the highest most exhilarating points of sobriety and clarity and the lowest lows of degradation and addiction. Learn how to get freedom from your addiction from someone who has been there.
At first, sobriety may seem like life is devoid of all passion. However, once you get some sobriety under your belt, you may find that you have more time, energy, and focus for passions that you once enjoyed.
In certain twelve-step recovery programs, passions that take up the time and focus which might otherwise be spent on your addiction are called “Outer Circle ” activities, or activities that promote recovery thinking and healthy passion. (Source: Sex Addicts Anonymous)
Rekindling old passions can be a great way to tap into your creative potential. Take up things like art, team sports, or exercise routines that spend the energy once used to maintain your addiction. Physical activity is especially good because of the guarantee to release endorphins and other “feel good” hormones. (Source: Sports Medicine)
Be careful not to do an addiction swap. Addiction swap means that you have replaced one addictive substance or activity with another thing, substance, or activity that is considered compulsive or addictive.
Identifying an addiction swap may take reflection with those in your support community. Remember, be honest and open with any activities you are using as part of your recovery program from addiction.
Structure Your Schedule
Unfortunately, unstructured time for addicts is a dangerous time. Keeping a well-structured and planned schedule can help to limit temptation and the occasional relapse by holding you accountable to the places, activities, and people who you are scheduling into your life.
At the beginning of recovery, it is also very helpful to have phone calls and meetings for twelve step recovery scheduled. Finding an accountability partner or a sponsor who can make sure you are making these commitments greatly helps your chances of following through with your recovery plan and sticking with your schedule.
Structure in recovery is essential. Those unable or bad at structuring or scheduling their time should seek help from professional services, such as Steps Recovery Centers, or find a core group of recovery fellows that you can rely on and reach by phone regularly.
(Source: Very Well Mind
Some other great steps for simplifying your recovery and making sure that you can get back to basics and structure a schedule for yourself that will give you the best chance possible in recovery are listed below:
- Make sure that you get enough sleep;l go to sleep early to avoid acting out and get up early to start your program practices before you even have coffee
- Limit situations, actions, and people that may bring up cravings or triggers to re-engage with your addiction
- Keep yourself comfortable, in familiar surroundings, and safe from unstructured time and situations
- Plan your ways to keep your responsibilities more manageable
- Make yourself more productive by staying focused on the essential aspects of your work and recovery life
(Source: Serenity Recovery)
Eat Healthy Meals
It sounds simple to eat healthily, but it is actually really hard to do. You are also in danger of swapping one addiction for another with overeating or indulging in rich sweet or savory foods when you give up substances or behaviors that you are addicted to.
A great way to eat healthy meals while in recovery is to focus on one day at a time. Going to the store to buy fresh ingredients and preparing meals that you find online or in a cookbook are healthy and affordable ways to keep yourself focused on recovery while indulging in passions that are healthy.
If the store is too triggering for you for whatever reason, you may want to consider one of the many meal delivery services like Green Chef or Blue Apron to do the shopping for you and bring delicious ingredients as well as in-depth instructions about how to prepare meals yourself or a whole group of people.
Farmer’s markets are also a healthy outlet for shopping, interaction, and working with fresh ingredients that can get your creativity working for meals that you cook yourself. Farmer’s markets can be triggering, so it may be best to go with friends from the recovery community or a family member if you feel like you may be tempted to act out or use there. However, the connection to the local community, food, and even music can enrich the soul. Get Organized
A cluttered lifestyle can get in the way of important facets of your life. If you have an unorganized workspace, a dirty car, and a house that is covered in mess, you may tend to focus too much attention on the mess and not enough on the triggers and warning signs that you need to pay attention to in order to stay sober. By addressing healthy habits and getting your recovery, work-life, and personal life organized, you can create momentum in recovery and better motivation to maintain sobriety.
In the end, getting organized with your daily actions is paramount for getting a structured system of recovery in place that is the same day in and day out. Making your life dependable will get your recovery dependable and make you more apt to be able to weather the storms of anxiety, stress, and difficulties in life when you know you have a solid and organized routine to fall back on.
(Source: Serenity Recovery)
Recovery is all about finding a rhythm that feels healthy for you. This list is merely a series of suggestions that can help you to refocus energy and compulsion and aid you in living an addiction-free lifestyle.
Ultimately, recovery is about the support you have and need. If you find that you are a solitary person who only needs meetings and can find recipes or sports activities on your own, then that is your best recovery.
However, if you find that solitary action leads to the temptation that you feel like you can’t handle at this point in your recovery, you will need to find more support, fellows, and activities to take the place and power away from your addictive tendencies.