When addiction treatment time (rehab) ends and the transition back to everyday life begins, a daily structure is critical in ways both large and small. The early weeks and months after treatment are a time for tremendous change and without structure, the days can seem overwhelming. Structure prevents restlessness and aimless drifting, providing confidence, purpose and a sense of stability that makes life manageable.
Structure is helpful for everyone, if in recovery or not. US psychologist Eric Berne said that the basis of quality of life is in the three SSS: Structure (a daily plan which provides stability), stroke (daily positive human and animal interactions, love, gratitude, beauty, joy, equanimity, serendipity, reverence, respect, awe) and stimulation (engaging in new things or learning something every day, personal growth).
With this in mind, let's return to structure:
A daily structure is different for each person and it will take time to develop a daily routine that works for you. Be consistent with your routine, but don’t be obsessive because there are bound to be times you will need to adapt. For example, be careful not to place routine ahead of time with friends and family.
Consider the following techniques to establish a meaningful, constructive daily structure:
- Keep your routine simple and plan your days around necessary activities such as mealtimes, sleep and of course, work, leisure, exercise etc. A complicated routine can leave you feeling frustrated, angry and depressed.
- Consider what you will say to other people who comment about your recovery, or those that inquire why you don’t attend social events or take on more work. Even though people often mean well, you are the only one who understands your situation. Keep your explanations simple, and if you feel uncomfortable, remember that you are not required to explain.
- Take care of yourself. Start each day with a healthy breakfast, drink plenty of water, make time for exercise and get enough rest. Getting healthy will benefit you as your body continues to recover. Continue to take prescribed nutritional supplements.
- Develop a habit of going to bed and getting up at the same time each day. This will help with sleep difficulties and insomnia that many people experience following rehab.
- Set time aside for clearing unnecessary clutter from your surroundings. Your living environment doesn’t have to be perfectly organized, but you will feel mentally clearer if you remove the chaos.
- Make recovery your number one priority. Avoid negative situations, people and places that may trigger relapse. Use all the tools you were taught during treatment.
- Avoid too much time in escapist activities such as watching TV, surfing the Internet or eating junk food. On the other hand, don’t be so rigid that even healthy things such as work or exercise become compulsive or addictive.
- Take time for contemplation. Practice meditation, do yoga, or spend time in nature.
- Ask for help from supportive family and friends when life feels overwhelming. Seek professional counseling if you have difficulty coping with cravings or you experience feelings of depression or anxiety.
- Set time aside each day for fun, laughter and comedy.
- Attend AA meetings if you found them useful while in treatment.
- Keep in touch with the treatment center, a good center will always love to hear from you and will respond immediately after hearing from you.
- Add more goals to your daily routine when you feel ready. If your structure isn’t working for you, make small changes until it feel right.
- Last but not least, remember: cherish the present moment and live your new life “one day at the time”.