By Kimberly Hayes
For many people recovering from substance abuse, staying clean is even harder than getting clean, with fewer than half of people released from residential treatment programs staying free from relapse, according to one survey. But you are not a statistic, and you can turn the odds in your favor. Here are some essential ways to get your life back on track and kill the cravings for good.
Reconnect with Loved Ones
You may have to say goodbye to a lot of the people you associated with while abusing drugs or alcohol, as they’re likely to trigger a relapse. However, this provides an opportunity to get back in touch with friends and family that may have become estranged during your struggle with addiction. Be ready to ask for forgiveness, then reach out with a phone call or email message and see where it leads. With a little effort, you’ll soon have a crucial network of loved ones that you can rely on for moral support while you get your life back in order.
Prioritize Your Finances
Whether due to spending money they didn’t have on their substance of choice or taking a leave of absence from work for treatment, many people in recovery find themselves on financially unstable ground post-addiction. Financial woes are a huge source of stress for anyone, and if not addressed, can tempt those in recovery to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, including using drugs or alcohol. Don’t delay in acting to clean up your financial picture. You may want to work with a personal banker to help you create a budget to pad up your savings, or even a credit repair specialist who can help you boost your credit score. The latter option is especially important if you spent time with people in your past life who may have used your credit accounts without permission to purchase drugs or alcohol.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
If you’re looking for another source of help, you’ll find it in the kitchen. According to an article in the U.S. News & World Report, a healthy diet rich in fresh vegetables and whole grains helps addicts build up their physical defenses against relapse by establishing an overall feeling of physical well-being. Specialists stress the importance of eating according to a regular schedule, ensuring that blood sugar stays close to optimal levels throughout the day to avoid the dangerous highs and lows that trigger cravings and lead to mood swings.
Start an Exercise Routine
Working out builds self-confidence, and if you feel good about yourself, you won’t need a chemical pick-me-up. It also fills up your spare time, staving off boredom and cravings, while helping you fall asleep more easily and leaving you refreshed in the morning with plenty of positive energy. Most importantly, exercise replaces your dependence with a natural high by releasing endorphins, or “feel-good” chemicals, but at lower levels than when using dangerous substances. This helps to regulate your brain chemistry and establish a healthier neural reward system.
Get Back to Nature
There’s no better place to exercise than out in the forest or at the park if you’re living in a big city. Spending time outdoors is fast becoming an integral part of treatment programs thanks to its restorative, mood-lifting qualities, with some experts claiming that it provides essential balance between our mind, body, and spirit. Perhaps that’s because it takes us away from the stresses of everyday life, such as traffic jams and buzzing telephones, replacing them with the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves or water bubbling over a rocky streambed.
Find a New Pastime
Another way to relieve stress is by taking up a new hobby. “One exciting aspect of living a life clean and sober is the time and the focus you will have available to try new things, discover new passions and to engage in different events, activities and options that simply have not been an option in the past,” says the Fix, a website devoted to addiction and recovery. Whether it’s music, theater, photography, or writing, find an activity that will inspire passion, dedication, and long-term commitment.
There’s a lot to do, so clean up your finances and make a daily schedule that includes time for exercise, healthy meals, and your hobbies, and stick to it. When the going gets tough, remember that each day that you stay clean and sober is a step closer to the person you want to be.
Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.