You have encountered some changes lately – going from a life of addiction, to having your days planned for you, to being face to face with real life. What are you going to do? As you become adjusted to a new life of sober living, learn how maintaining the structure you have grown accustomed to can help you excel.

What does it mean to have structure?

Wandering through your days aimlessly may feel freeing, but you likely won’t accomplish much. Realistically, at least. You may do a few things that you want to do, but perhaps you will forget to eat a healthy meal, go for a run, or fit in your therapy appointment.

Having structure means that you have a schedule or, for lack of better terms, a “to-do” list each day. It is having specific things that you do each day or each week. Structure helps you prioritize and maintain your focus, rather than allowing the free-flowing minutes to just pass you by.

Besides – without a routine, wouldn’t you get bored?

The importance of structure

Structure is important for everyone as it helps us feel accomplished, it helps with goal setting and completion, as well as helping to keep daily priorities in order. Structure for someone who is in recovery, however, is extremely important. Why? During treatment and during your time in sober living (thus far), you most likely had a set schedule. Did you think this was just for the convenience of the staff? Think again.

First, structure keeps you from having down time. And, as someone who is in recovery – you know what idle time can lead to. The correlation between boredom and relapse is very real. Second, having a routine can give you a sense of familiarity, as you will be doing the same things on a set schedule. This familiarity can provide comfort to someone who has just been thrown into a whole new world.

Your life as you knew it –as an addict – has changed. Since change is frightening, you are going to be looking for as much comfort as you can find. Structure can wrap you up and calm your fears as you wake to face each new day.

What makes up a routine?

A routine is made up of all the things that you need to do within your day, beginning with when you wake up. For instance:

  • Wake up at the same time every single day (set an alarm to make sure). Making the decision to sleep in late during the weekend can throw your entire day off.
  • Have a rotating number of meals that you enjoy and make sure that you always have their ingredients on hand. This ensures that you are getting a healthy meal and not left scrambling to find something to eat – which usually leads to unhealthy choices.
  • Account for time dedicated to work or school.
  • Daily living skills make up a routine, as well. Such as, bathing, laundry, cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene, etc.
  • Your routine will want to include exercise or a fitness regime. This is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Include time for recovery or support meetings, as well as therapy and doctor appointments.
  • Having time to socialize with your friends and family is important.
  • You will need to have alone time for reflection and journaling.
  • Hobbies give you an outlet for feelings and strong emotions. Schedule them.

This list may seem a bit overwhelming – especially if you are trying to make a routine and fit everything in to one day or one week. Instead, decide what is most important and start there.

Ideas for developing a healthy and beneficial routine

Routines are not set in stone. You will always be changing – and so will your schedule. When this happens, just re-arrange things to make it work for your needs. Only you will know what feels comfortable and right.

Here are a few ideas to get you started with developing a healthy and beneficial routine:

  • Account for all minutes of your day. Even if they are moments of personal reflection or down time, then call it that. Do not leave free blocks of time on your calendar. This can lead to boredom or not knowing what to do and can have terrible results.
  • Keep the balance. For instance, you do want to have a routine heavy in physical health and not social or emotional.
  • Make your routine realistic and do not try to overfill your space.
  • Know that things happen and that sometime they are out of our control. It is important to know that your routine or schedule is not the end all, say all. If something comes up that interferes with what you have scheduled – then take a logical yet honest look at what is priority. Adjust if needed.

Developing a healthy routine will take time, but it will eventually become second-nature.

Dangers of getting too stuck in a routine

As someone who is living in recovery, you may tend to grip on to something as you try to find your way in your new sober life. After all, it is much different than the life of an addict. Unfortunately, this may lead to an unhealthy dependence on the routine.

It is important to remember that life is not steady – it is ever-changing. If you find that you tend to freak out when something else comes up, perhaps you better evaluate your dependence on your routine.

Make sure that you do not put so much focus on your routine that you miss what is going on with the people around you. YOU and others are more of a priority than your routine. You have developed it to give you a chance to grip on to life and find balance, but that does not mean that it takes precedence in your life.

Structure can be a wonderful tool to ease your way into a healthy and full way of sober living. Keep your routine healthy, steady, and real – and you will be able to successfully accomplish anything!