Addiction can grab hold of anyone, showing no bias when it searches for victims. As if the torment of addiction isn’t enough, addiction recovery is equally tormenting for many. According to the disease model of addiction, being sober does not mean that the addiction is broken. In fact, many addicts battle the addiction for years through cravings and long-term withdrawal symptoms, even with a successful recovery.
As the brain learns to not depend on a substance for chemical stability, the body responds with withdrawal symptoms. Breaking a Xanax addiction, for example, can take months before mood is stabilized once again. Most symptoms will dissipate within the first week of sobriety, but sometimes can sneak up during times of stress. It is during these times that some people relapse, turning back to the substance for a brief moment of reprieve.
As such, it is so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle that supports recovery and reduces the potential for relapse. One way to do that is to incorporate a few self-care practices into your daily habits.
Not sure where to begin? Here are 7 ways to take care of yourself:
1. Distract Yourself
Certain situations can bring about acute stress, leading to intense and sudden cravings. When a craving hits, it can be incredibly difficult to think of anything else. Luckily, cravings usually last for just about 15 minutes. If you can distract your brain for those 15 minutes, then you will be able to survive the cravings more easily.
Try going for a walk outside to breath the fresh air and observe the landscapes. If a walk isn’t really your thing, then try exploring with your senses in other ways. Get a stress ball, playdough, a spinner, or even a crossword puzzle and occupy your mind and senses during your cravings.
2. Spend Quality Time With Quality People
Being around people you know and understand is always good. Connecting with other people is an essential part of self-care. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, reaching out to a supportive friend, loved one, sponsor, therapist, or someone who understands is advisable. At times, talking about what you’re feeling can take power away from it.
For some, however, this can be a challenging task. Many recovering addicts have rebuilt their support to make sure they are not around their old drug scene. Finding new friends can seem like a daunting task, but the internet makes it a whole lot easier. Search for local support groups, or groups of people with similar interests. Running groups, yoga studios, or even reading groups. You can easily find these groups on websites such as MeetUp.com and for free, too!
Connecting with others could mean remembering that you are not the only one going through the stressful experiences associated with addiction. Many people are facing similar challenges. Acknowledging that you are part of this experience could lessen isolation and calm your mind.
3. Keep a Journal
One of the most difficult parts about breaking an addiction is the war that ensues in your own head. One helpful way to keep your mind calm is to simply keep a daily journal. Keeping a journal can help you remain grounded and boost your self esteem, both of which are essential to maintaining sobriety.
Use the journal to let out all of your thoughts, emotions, questions, and more. Rather than letting that anxious energy swirl in your head all day and night, get those thoughts out onto paper.
An especially helpful tip for journaling is to then challenge those thoughts. If you are afraid that you will struggle with cravings for the rest of your life or that the dark period will never end, then write it down! Then, below that entry, write all of the concrete reasons why these fears are unfounded. Cravings biologically cannot last forever and just like you were not always in this dark spot, you will not remain in this dark spot either. When practiced daily, journaling can move mountains.
4. Practice Mindful Meditation
Many people dismiss meditation as a spiritual practice, but that can’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are hundreds of studies that demonstrate the powerful benefits of meditation. Just with five minutes a day you can completely rewire your brain to not only be happier but also to resist cravings more easily.
It’s not all that difficult to build a meditation practice, contrary to popular belief. There are thousands of free resources online that provide guided meditations. Begin with something short, such as a simple breathing exercise. Work your way up each day and have fun with it!
5. Take Care of Your Body
You do not need to read this article to know that addiction recovery is difficult. However, do not forget that fact, either. Not only is your experience a rough one, but your body’s experience through recovery is an ugly one as well. Feed your body whole foods filled with nutrients, fiber, and plenty of natural energy. Get good rest and aim to sleep at least seven hours per night.
By taking care of your body you are eliminating extra work for your cells, which are currently working overtime to repair all the damages caused by addiction. The better you care for your body, the more easily it will repair itself.
6. Move Your Body
Physical activity is a great way of coping with stress for many reasons. Most notably, exercise stabilizes the mood by stimulating the brain to produce neurotransmitters associated with elevated mood. It also help set your biological clock so that you can fall asleep more easily at night, which is crucial during recovery.
Physical exercise also gets your blood moving throughout your body. Though this sounds simple, think of your blood as a natural cleaner for your inner organs and tissues. As you exercise, you force the blood to move through your veins, carrying toxins and unused adrenaline out of your body.
You don’t need to be a marathon runner to achieve the benefits of exercise, either. Simply go for a walk after dinner, or practice gentle yoga in the mornings. The important thing is simply to move your body.
7. Have Fun
Above all else, have fun! Many recovering addicts struggle with this as drugs or alcohol had previously been their primary source of fun. Becoming sober can often seem like a dull chore as a result. That’s normal and that’s okay. But that does not mean that you need to live in this grey world forever.
Instead, find fun hobbies and activities to do. Maybe you like colouring or maybe you have always wanted to try skateboarding. Try gardening, or cooking, or reading, or even just going to the movies. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, as long as it promotes a healthy lifestyle and you enjoy it. Whether you are facing an addiction or not, you deserve to have fun in this life!
Incorporate these tips into your daily life and you will find that sobriety is a whole lot easier. There will always be triggers and dark spots, but if you can make your life worth living again then these triggers and dark spots will fade away.
William Weiss is an advocate of long-term sobriety. As a member of the recovery community, he feels it is important to spread awareness of alcohol and drug misuse in America. Being personally affected and having family members struggling, it is a personal quest of his to bring the facts about substance misuse to light, ultimately enlightening America on this epidemic. You can read more from William at Uniting Recovery.