How to Live a Life in Recovery

For a recovering alcoholic or addict, learning to find balance can be particularly challenging. Leading a balanced life means avoiding extreme highs or lows. It also means paying attention to tendencies that many addicts have to focus or obsess too much on one activity, such as exercise or work. When the scales are tipped too far in one direction, it can trigger the urge to turn to mind-altering substances.

Running from feelings is what you’re used to, and since you know you can’t pick up a substance, you may try to run from your feelings in other ways. It’s not uncommon for a recovering addict to turn to overeating or gambling or relationship addiction. You may sleep too much or you might become obsessive about a hobby, such as working out. People turn to various forms of compulsive behavior when they don’t want to live in reality. As a recovering addict, you may tend to approach pretty much everything addictively. Some people miss the extreme highs and lows of active addiction. If you’re like many others in recovery, when you get sober, life seems … well, boring. Once you get through the initial rollercoaster ride of newly felt emotions, you may find yourself thinking, “is this all there is?” A sober life doesn’t have to be a boring life. How can you enjoy your life sober without intensifying all your experiences?

The Secret is Balance.

In order to continue on with your addiction recovery and balance your life you must have an idea of where it is that you want to go. Begin by setting a plan and then think about how to turn this into a vision. Having this plan will be the foundation for creating the life you want. For example, perhaps you want to be able to build a strong relationship with your children or begin a new career. You may not achieve this instantly, but this plan and vision will allow you to focus in on what you want.

Without a balanced lifestyle, it can be difficult to manage your stress levels and prevent yourself from falling back into addiction relapse. A common side effect of active substance abuse addiction is the lack of control experienced in the life of the addict.

In order to live a balanced lifestyle, you will generally need to change the types of habitual activities that you take part in your life. Examples of regular activities that would be beneficial for you to use as a replacement for former activities and to help strengthen your recovery are meditation, prayer, participation in therapy sessions and self-help groups and/or 12 step groups, as well as increasing your regular exercise schedule.

Finding natural balance is built on the physiologic operating principles of your nervous system. You can find and sustain a natural, resilient balance by following a carefully constructed program, a program of natural and common sense steps such as:

  • balanced sleep
  • the right amount of exercise
  • a structured diet of food and entertainment
  • healthy relationships
  • the right type of positive thinking or self-talk

Health and nutrition are critical in the recovery process and can increase your chance for long term sobriety.  The connection between the mind, body and spirit plays a critical role in reinventing yourself.

Alcoholism and drug addiction deprive the body of the essential vitamins and nourishment that your body needs to function properly.  Long periods of restricting and neglecting your diet causes an imbalance and can lead to serious gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diarrhea, an inability to properly digest foods, as well as a suppressed appetite.

Learning how to properly nourish the body is an important and beneficial tool for your personal recovery.  Following a healthy diet can reduce cravings and decrease mood swings.  Eating properly teaches a recovering addict how to care for and respect their body.

What does a healthy diet consist of?

Balanced meals at regular times daily are extremely important for a person new in recovery.  Your diet should consist of foods with dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein.

Recovering individuals have a difficult time focusing, or concentrating on a particular thought or idea.  This is because drug use and alcoholism depletes dopamine levels in the brain. Eating foods high in protein can improve concentration and memory capacity.

Foods high in tyrosine, an amino acid used in synthesizing protein, are crucial for mental preparation.  Foods such as meats, poultry, seafood, and tofu are high in tyrosine.  These foods promote alertness and mental activity.

Healthy Nutrition Tips:

  • Caffeine and sugar can intensify mood swings, so reduce or eliminate both early in recovery
  • Consume different types of vegetables
  • Enjoy plenty of fruit
  • Eat wholegrain or sourdough breads
  • Use breakfast cereals that contain bran, oats and barley
  • Eat less starch, especially potatoes

Take a multi-vitamin. Recovering addicts lack many essential vitamins (find a supplement that includes: vitamins A and C, B-complex and zinc)

Establishing and maintaining a balanced diet, along with regular exercise and relaxation aid in restoring an addict to health. Exercise detoxifies, as well as strengthens the body and mind. When your heart rate is elevated your body release endorphins, which can reduce stress.

Drug abuse involves negative thinking and a distorted perception of reality, so changing these thoughts into healthy ones involves positive action. Physical activity focuses your energy and quiets urges to use drugs and alcohol.

When we are physically active we have more energy throughout the day, and our thoughts are more positive and optimistic.  We start feeling better about ourselves, which in turn creates positive thinking and an improved perception of ourselves.

The disease of addiction involves an obsession of the mind, so it is important to find a healthy balance in fixing both the mind and the body.  Individuals who are early in recovery should be careful not to focus too much on fixing the outside, as it is easy for a drug addict to transfer addictions.

Look at your recovery as a pie chart.  Consider the mind, body and soul as equal pieces of the pie.  Anytime one piece is too big or too small, it’s time to do something different.  Finding this balance will enhance your recovery and increase your overall well-being.

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