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The Importance of Routine in Early Recovery

Julie Rogers
| December 11, 2017

Maintaining focus and motivation is a challenge many of us in recovery face, especially those who are new to sobriety. Many people feel overwhelmed when they first become sober, so it is important to develop a routine that provides structure. Creating new healthy patterns and a new way of living is a big part of recovery. The most beneficial time to start manifesting a routine is in early recovery, so that habits are created before you move into long-term recovery.

Creating a new routine was important for me as I set a new foundation for my life in recovery. I had to leave all of my old habits and routines behind when I got sober.

I left everything behind but my running. I didn’t have an option– I had to leave the old life behind in order to create the new life that was waiting for me in sobriety.

Elements of a daily routine can include:

  • Waking up and going to bed at consistent, healthy times
  • Keeping up a regular exercise regime
  • Practicing meditation
  • Eating regular, healthy meals
  • Socializing with supportive people
  • Working regular hours
  • Maintaining personal hygiene
  • Journaling
  • Attending recovery groups (12-Step meetings)
  • Active participation in healthy family activities

There are so many benefits to a routine in early recovery. Most importantly, a routine gives structure to your day and provides stability, familiarity, and comfort. For me, having a routine made me feel productive and accountable for my days. Keeping a journal became a big part of my morning routine as I could create a gratitude list, and keep a journal of my progress. Normal sleep patterns helped alleviate insomnia, which, in turn, created better health and wellness. Boredom can be a dangerous emotion during recovery, so keeping busy is important and by having a schedule and a routine, this gives the structure and purpose for the day.

It may take a while to establish a routine as it can take time, and part of the process is to try new things. It should also be about balance and having a good mix of spiritual, physical, and mental activities. Sadhana (pronounced saad-nah) means “daily spiritual practice” and includes elements that will maintain balance in your life, strengthen and detoxify your body, and calm your mind. These elements include yoga, prayer, and meditation, and are usually done early in the morning.

In early recovery, I kept busy and filled my time, but I didn’t have any consistency or routine. I was running, going to meetings, and working, but my sleep patterns were still a mess.

I still filled my time with many people, places, and things that really didn’t fit in my life anymore, so I started making a list of the top-most important things that I wanted to include in my day, and into my mornings. I listed everything and then crossed off the things that really didn’t have any importance to me and my new life in sobriety.

Like recovery, I took it one day at a time, and I started by getting up early each morning, having my coffee and journaling while it was still quiet and I had time to myself. I would then go out for my run—running, for me, even then, was and still is a form a meditation. It is time by myself to think, let go, and release anxiety. Over time, my routine became habit and my habits became my lifestyle.

If you are not sure what you like to spend your time doing, I encourage you to try new things, even if it is just once, to find out what you do like. You might be surprised and find out you are really good at something you never thought possible.

One of the keys is to set positive, re-enforcing routines, not rigid, difficult-to-follow rules. A routine that goes with your lifestyle, your beliefs, and your new way of living is key. When we are free from addiction we get to experience things like never before, and we get the opportunity to create the life we have always wanted, but most importantly, we get to create the life we were meant to live.

“When you arise in the morning think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive-to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

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