Alcoholism and drug addictions involve an obsession with getting and drinking or using. When those with a substance use disorder go through detox and rehab, they should be coming out the other side with goals for a whole new life – a life without drugs. It’s a quality-of-life issue that’s central to a long-term recovery.1
Goals Are an Essential Part of Avoiding Self-Sabotage, Relapse
Goals can be any size or dimension. They might include a daily run, getting a college degree in an area of particular interest, or taking the children to a playground once a week followed by a lengthy visit over milkshakes. The important thing is that the goals are rewarding and support abstinence from alcohol and other drugs. While drinking or using drugs took up most of the time and energy prior to seeking help, it’s important to find other things to fill the void rather than just sitting around feeling bored, frustrated or depressed.
It’s a good idea to get a small calendar or notebook. In it should be written goals and ways to use the free time now available without drugs. A greater focus on doing those things that support personal health, occupational objectives, raising a family, and other worthy activities helps to maintain sobriety.
Good use of time not only helps avert anger and other negative emotions that can lead to use, but it also helps fulfill responsibilities, keep promises, and build a sense of self-respect. Trouble with loved ones and coworkers is oftentimes avoided by being diligent and reliable.But be sure to schedule time for leisure activities and relaxation as well. There’s no need to be busy every minute of the day. Reap the rewards of a life well spent.
Furthermore, don’t expect the desire for alcohol or other drugs to go away quickly. When cravings occur, “healthy thinking” can help work through the moment. Rather than romanticizing about the past, reflect on all of the good things being realized with abstinence.
In promoting a healthy lifestyle to accompany substance abuse recovery, it is important to understand and practice sound self-care. Aspects of self-care include physical activity, proper sleep, good nutrition and pleasurable, drug-free activities. These healthy choices support recovering individuals in their effort to stay positive, improve health, establish new routines, and reduce idle time that may lead to drug use relapse.2
The Importance of Nutrition to Physical, Mental and Emotional Health
A vital part of self-care is good nutrition. Macro- and micro-nutrient deficiencies can lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety and low energy – any of which might cause people to start using alcohol or other drugs…or trigger a relapse back into substance abuse.
Likewise, substance abuse generally leads to a lack of proper nutrition, either as a result of not eating enough throughout the day or eating foods that are low in necessary nutrients. Certain substances, such as stimulants, can suppress appetite and disrupt metabolic and neuroendocrine regulation, leading to improper calorie consumption and impaired nutrient processing. Other substances can lead to an increase in appetite, causing weight gain.3
Proper Levels of Exercise Support Good Health, Self-Image and Decision-Making
Studies suggest that getting more exercise can be very instrumental in living a happy, healthy life –helping to avoid the need or desire for drugs. Exercise stimulates some of the same circuits in the brain as addictive substances, so it is a good substitute for old drug habits. Endorphins are released in the body when people are physically active; this significantly contributes to feelings of elation and well-being.
The necessary counterpart to exercise is rest and relaxation. Since much of the body’s refreshment and healing is done while sleeping, insufficient sleep can lead to not only an inadequate energy level, but also a decrease in well-being and reduced cognitive function – any of which may open the door to drug use.4
Recovery Provides the Opportunity to Enjoy Freedom from Addiction, Redefine “Fun”
One of the important tasks in substance use disorder therapy is to help individuals redefine what fun is. Clinical experience has shown that when people in recovery are under stress, they tend to glamorize their past use and think about it longingly. They start to think that recovery is hard work and addiction was fun. They begin to disqualify the positives they have gained through recovery. The cognitive challenge is to acknowledge that recovery is sometimes hard work, but addiction is even harder with many more negative repercussions.
The expectancy theory says that when people expect to have fun, they usually do; likewise, when they expect that something will not be fun, it usually isn’t. Cognitive therapy can help those who are in recovery address their misconceptions about what life with and without drugs is like.5
It’s Vital to Break Free from the Drug-Using Culture of the Past
To help users break their ties with the drug culture, drug treatment programs must challenge any continued involvement with elements of those cultures (for example, style of dress, music and language).
This can occur through two basic processes: replacing those elements with something positive that is associated with a culture of recovery (such as replacing a marijuana leaf keychain with a Narcotics Anonymous keychain) and reframing something so that it is no longer associated with drug use or the drug culture (like listening to drug-culture-associated music at a sober dance with others in recovery).6
The Fundamental Key to Recovery: Change Your Life so Substances Aren’t Part of It
The most important rule for those seeking freedom from substances is that recovery isn’t achieved by just not using. Recovery involves creating a new life in which not using is more easily accomplished.Rather than seeing the need for change as a negative, recovery should be viewed as an opportunity for change – to move forward and be happier and more successful than before. This is the “silver lining” of having an addiction; it forces people to reevaluate their lives and make changes that non-addicts don’t have to make. In the end, a life of greater passion and purpose may be the end result.5
This is what Michael’s House is all about: changing for the better by getting clean and setting personal goals that will produce the greatest success, happiness and fulfillment. If you’d like to find out more about a life beyond drugs, we encourage you to call our 24/7 toll-free line. More information about drugs, addictions and healing options are available with no obligation. We care…one person at a time.
1 Laudet, Alexandre B., Ph.D.,“The Case for Considering Quality of Life in Addiction Research and Clinical Practice”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3188817/ , (July 2011).
2 “The Next Step…Toward a Better Life”, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4474/SMA12-4474.pdf, (2011).
3 Salz, Alyssa, M.S., R.D., L.D., “Substance Abuse and Nutrition”, Today’s Dietitian, http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120914p44.shtml , (December 2014).
4 “Healthy Living”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/healthyliving.html , (March 30, 2016).
5 “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery”, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/ , (September 2015).
6 “Drug Cultures and the Culture of Recovery”, National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK248421/ .