The Dos and Don’ts of Creating a Daily Routine in Recovery

creating a daily routine in recovery

Early recovery is tough. Know what can make it easier? A daily routine.

By simply creating a daily routine in recovery, you can decrease your risk of relapse and increase your ability to find sustainable sobriety.

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Why is Creating a Daily Routine in Recovery Important?

creating a daily routine in recoveryRelapse is a gradual process that starts with emotions and thoughts. Frustration, stress, purposeless, and even boredom are connected to relapse.

Alcoholics Anonymous recommends that when you feel tempted to drink, you should HALT and consider if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Failing to meet these fundamental physical and emotional needs has a well-documented connection with an increased risk of relapse.

If you don’t create a daily routine in early recovery, you are likely to encounter more instances when these difficult emotions and thoughts come up.

Here are the essentials of a structured recovery routine:

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The Dos and Don’ts of Creating a Daily Recovery Routine

What’s the best way to work all of these things into your routine? Follow these dos and don’ts:

#1 – Do Prioritize Creating and Sticking to Your Routine

In early recovery, sobriety is your first priority. Many other goals can wait.

Focus on the tasks, habits, and choices that help you in recovery, and avoid things that distract or discourage you.

A daily routine filled with recovery-focused tasks is an asset early recovery, so commit to making this a priority.

#2 –  Do Make a Schedule Part of the Routine

Don’t try to keep every part of a new routine organized in your head. Write down your daily and weekly routine.

Go as low or high tech as you want, just make sure it’s recorded somewhere for reference—a paper planner, a wall calendar, an app, or a spreadsheet. There is no wrong way to record your schedule if it works for you.

#3 – Do Make Your Routine Consistent

Your daily routine won’t function the way it’s meant to if it constantly changes. You may need to stay flexible on some things, like scheduling follow-up appointments when providers are available, but the tasks that you control should be predictable.

Give yourself stability and predictability. Use your written schedule as a guide, and stick to it.

#4 – Do Incorporate Rewards Into Your Routine

Set small goals as you establish your new routine. As you reach them, give yourself a reward. Include things you enjoy. Try new healthy foods to keep meals interesting. Exercise regularly, but switch up your workout routine. Read a new book genre.

Remember: routine means stable, not boring.

If you are a reward-driven person, consider working with a contingency management addiction treatment provider.

This treatment approach builds rewards that you and your provider agree on into your treatment plan to reinforce your routine.

#5 – Do Make a Plan for When the Plan Changes

Life happens. There will be days or weeks when your routine gets disrupted. Try to plan for these interruptions if you know they’re coming. And have some contingency plans ready for times when there’s a surprise in your day.

Establish a relapse prevention plan with the help of your care team, such as your therapist, to lay out actionable things you can do in response to specific potential issues keeping your routine.

#6 – Don’t Think Too Big

Don’t try to tackle Mt. Everest in early recovery. Make small changes, then work your way up to bigger ones. For example, if you’re not in the habit of exercising, don’t make your first goal to run a marathon. You don’t even need to think of the ideal goal as “exercising regularly.” Your movement goal can be as small as walking to the end of your block and enjoying the sunshine.

Consider working with professionals who can help keep your goals in perspective. For example, a specializing therapist or registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) can consult on nutrition and movement while you are creating your daily routine in recovery.

#7 – Don’t Narrow Your Focus Too Much

Hobbies and activities are an important part of your daily routine in recovery. But what if you don’t have any? Don’t invest time and money just to say you have a hobby.

Try several things. See what you like and what you’re good at. Find something you have a passion for, then make that part of your new life in recovery.

If you don’t find something new, consider what you used to spend your time doing prior to obtaining and using substances claiming your time. Are you interested in revisiting those activities? Would they support your recovery and help you reclaim a sense of self?

#8 – Don’t Be Too Rigid

Keep some flexibility while creating your daily routine in recovery. There will be days when you need to change up the schedule, and that’s ok.

Give yourself permission to do this, so your routine works for you. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking, such as, “I didn’t wake up on time, so today is a wash” or “I had to miss my usual AA meeting this week for a doctor’s appointment and a different meeting just won’t help me.” These thought patterns trap you in behavior patterns.

Be flexible enough to forgive yourself, accept changes to the plan, and move on to the next right thing.

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Who Can Help With Creating Your Daily Routine in Recovery?

creating a daily routine in recoveryInvolve friends or family members in your new routine. Ask them to join you in sober and recovery-focused activities. Invite them to places where they can learn more about addiction. Ask them to help you stay accountable. This social support is crucial for early (and ongoing) recovery.

Your care team—including addiction treatment professionals, your doctor, and an AA sponsor—can help you decide what should go at the top of your list of priorities at this critical point in your recovery.

Creating a relapse prevention plan is part of aftercare planning in addiction treatment programs. This plan can lay the foundation for your daily routine.

To learn more about alcohol addiction treatment options, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak to our treatment specialists.

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