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In part 1 of Making Time for Recovery we discussed the importance of exercise and nutrition as part of a daily recovery program for addiction or alcoholism. And while it might seem like more of a health “convenience” to eat right and exercise, it’s actually a critical part of staying sober, and if neglected can lead to relapse. However, there’s a lot more to a daily recovery plan than watching what you eat, exercising and drinking plenty of water. In order to stay sober you need to develop social connections and meaningful relationships, manage clinical symptoms of the disease of addiction and make time for the spiritual side of life.
2.) The social aspects of recovery
Whether a recovering addict or not, human relationships are the most important things that we have in life. The most intense and dynamic of these – the relationships between us and our families and romantic partners – are generally the single most important driving force in a person’s life. This is why interventions for drug addiction or alcoholism are generally so effective – because the people closest to us have a powerful influence on our behaviors.
This can be an especially difficult part of working a daily recovery plan because in some cases it means that an addict will need to change the state of their relationships with some people. In many instances this also means cutting off contact with people that once supported a drug habit or were abusive or severely dysfunctional in some way (and unlikely to change). For some people this might also mean to abstain from romantic relationships for a short period of time – a common and accepted practice by many addiction-recovery organizations and groups. According to William Berry, an addiction education consultant;
“Addicts do not enter recovery with healthy self-esteem.” “This affects their perception of what attributes they are bringing to the relationship bargaining table.” “If they do not feel very good about themselves, or if their belief that they feel good about themselves is instead a defense mechanism, they will not expect much in return for what they bring.” (1)
As a result of these and other complications that can result from a relationship too early in recovery, many experts and experienced recovering addicts advise against relationships for the first year of a recovery program.
*Friendships and acquaintances
After rehab has been completed and a newly recovering addict rejoins their community, they often find that the “friends” they used to have are either:
a.) No longer willing to participate in the relationship
b.) Not willing or able to support the addict’s recovery
In some cases an addict may need to cultivate an entirely new set of friendships and associations. This means avoiding former using buddies and people that could be a trigger for relapse. It also means finding new friends and acquaintances that will provide healthy relationships that will buoy a daily recovery program and anchor the addict firmly in reality.
Support networks of like-minded people in recovery are crucial for developing a lasting and successful daily recovery program. This can include 12 Step groups like NA or AA, Al-Anon, and other support groups for people with addictions. This is especially important for people in early recovery, who can learn from the advice given by more experienced addicts and alcoholics in recovery.
To learn more about what it takes to work on a daily recovery plan, please see part 3 of this article series. In it we’ll discuss the clinical/symptomatic and spiritual aspects of a recovery from addiction or alcoholism program.
If you or someone you love has recently relapsed or you need help for a drug problem, please call the number at the top of your screen for a free, confidential consultation right now. We are a group of addiction experts whose primary mission is to help you put your Recovery First.
(1) Berry, William MS, CAP Love, Sex, Relationships, and Early Addiction Recovery