Recovery from Addiction: Tips for Structuring a New Life

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Neurologist and Addiction Specialist Dr. Russell Surasky with Tips on the Importance of Routine.

Dr. Russell Surasky

With a daily routine established and regular participation in a support group, you have the foundation in place for a successful recovery.

"We are creatures of habit and breaking them isn't easy, but to successfully overcome addiction, people must not only quit drugs, they must break out of old routines. They must change the unhealthy behaviors that dominated daily life – irregular sleep, haphazard eating, risky relationships – and develop new routines that will support a healthy, drug-free existence. Structure is critically important in recovery,” says neurologist and addiction medicine specialist Dr. Russell Surasky with Surasky Neurological Center for Addiction. “Facing life after addiction can seem overwhelming. Developing structured routines provides comfort, and stability. Having a plan for the day keeps you on track, makes it easier to avoid drifting back into unhealthy patterns, and helps you prove to yourself that you're making progress one day at a time.”

"If you randomly ask people for words they associate with 'routine,' you might get responses like 'humdrum,' 'boring,' and 'monotonous.' But you might also get responses like 'familiar,' 'regular,' and 'predictable.' For people recovering from addiction, it is precisely the familiar, regular, and predictable that can help them heal and help them cope with the challenges that might threaten their sobriety. Having a routine reduces the anxiety of waking up in the morning and wondering, 'What do I do now?'” says Dr, Surasky. “It restores a sense of control, of taking responsibility for your life beyond simply abstaining from drug use. It helps you, step by step, develop new patterns of behavior that will become your 'default setting' as you build a healthy new life.”

Establishing a daily routine doesn't mean rigidly programming every minute of every day. It means having a plan and sticking to it. Dr. Surasky offers tips on things to consider when developing a daily routine, starting with the basics:

Sleep: Many people slept erratically while they were using drugs and suffer from insomnia in recovery. Sticking to a sleep schedule – going to bed and waking at the same time each day, including weekends – can help establish more regular sleep patterns and more restful sleep.

Meals: Eat at set mealtimes and don't skip meals. Keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked with healthy foods. Avoid frequent snacking, especially on junk foods loaded with sugar and salt.

Exercise: Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, preferably at the same time every day.

Home maintenance: Don't rush to climb up on the roof to replace those loose tiles. But set aside some time every day and every week to keep your surroundings clean and orderly. Don't let dirty cloths pile up on a chair, dirty dishes languish in the sink, or dust bunnies colonize the corners.

Work: If possible, maintain a regular or at least predictable work schedule.

Family and friends: Nothing is more important than spending time with people close to you who nourish your spirit and validate your self-worth.

“Having a structured plan for these everyday activities will help restore health and fitness, reduce the likelihood of boredom and loneliness, and make it easier to get things done without procrastinating,” says Dr. Surasky. “That said, it's important to not become too dependent on a routine, to be flexible as new opportunities arise and unexpected events occur.”

Another critical component in a recovery plan and a key part of the routine is a program that provides a support network. For most people, a weekly counselor-led group helps prevent backsliding and is an opportunity to connect with others who are facing similar challenges. The bonds that develop with other participants can be a vital support with lasting benefits.

“With a daily routine established and regular participation in a support group, you have the foundation in place for a successful recovery,” Dr. Surasky concludes. “With your commitment to openness and honesty, you can break the cycle of repeated relapse and progress toward a new, drug-free life.”

Russell Surasky, FAAN, ABAM, with Surasky Neurological Center for Addiction, is board certified in both neurology and addiction medicine, is one of the few physicians with this combination of credentials. His primary focus in practice is addiction medicine. Utilizing unique medication protocols individualized to each patient, he provides specialized treatment for opiate, benzodiazepine, and alcohol addiction. http://www.drsurasky.com

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