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routine in addiction recovery

Routine in Addiction Recovery

New Routine in Addiction Recovery

If you’re reading this, you’ve committed to staying sober. By going through drug rehab, you’ve already come a long way. Establishing a routine as quickly as possible will increase your chances of long-term success.

However, there’s a delicate balance between sticking to a schedule and obsessing over it. If you fail to plan, you open the door to relapse. If you’re rigid and inflexible, you open the door to other addictive behaviors.

Keep reading for tips on creating a routine that strikes the perfect balance.

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The Importance of Routine in Addiction Recovery

Kicking a habit once and for all is difficult if you don’t have anything to replace it with. Having idle time on your hands, time that you once filled by drinking or using drugs, can get you into trouble.

The solution is to make sure that your days and nights are reasonably full. Staying clean is easier once you get into a consistent rhythm; your brain soon kicks in to reward you for making positive changes. Even your body performs better when you set fairly consistent times for eating, sleeping and exercising. Whatever routine you design for yourself is reinforced whenever you repeat it. In time, new habits feel comfortable and familiar, and every recovering addict can use that kind of stability.

In the past, substance abuse was your default setting when you were lonely, bored, depressed or anxious. The idea is to create a new, healthier default setting in which life-enhancing habits replace self-destructive ones. If you establish a good routine, your mind, body and spirit will quickly go along with it. You’ll be in control again.

Establishing a Routine

A structured lifestyle has special benefits for recovering addicts.

Poor health and insomnia are common problems for newly sober people. Scheduling long-overdue doctor visits and dental exams will help you bounce back. Healthy meals will replace lost nutrients. Going to bed and waking at the same time each day will regulate your body clock for better sleep.

Planning a routine in addiction recovery will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. You’ll see that every aspect of life is manageable. Scheduling your time leaves little room for procrastination, loneliness and boredom, which are all triggers to relapse.

Here are some ideas for designing your routine:

  • Prioritize recovery. Quickly decide where and how often you will attend meetings or speak with your sponsor.
  • Set a regular bedtime and time to wake up. Allow time for a healthy, unrushed breakfast before work.
  • Set consistent mealtimes. Research nutrition websites for menu-planning.
  • Set realistic and consistent times for exercise. Start slowly, and gradually increase the length of your workouts as you build stamina.
  • Schedule family time or date nights with your spouse.
  • Schedule daily and weekly household tasks such as cleaning, doing laundry and paying bills.
  • Schedule time for entertainment, hobbies and socialization. You might enjoy Monday Night Football, a daily crossword, a weekly movie night or a monthly book club. Get in touch with sober friends you haven’t seen in a while. Volunteer in your community.
  • Make time for quiet, restorative activities like yoga, religious services, journaling or reading inspirational books.

Fill in all the specifics. Take a careful look at the final product, and rethink anything that could become a pitfall.

For example, your bike route shouldn’t take you past the neighborhood bar you used to frequent. You may not be ready to attend the wedding of a friend if a lot of drinking is planned. If you scheduled time for music, change up your playlist to eliminate songs that you associate with drinking or drug use. Gambling, online bidding, viewing pornography, eating junk food and even overexercising are addictive behaviors. Avoid them.

Adjusting for Balance

Try your schedule out for a few days or a couple of weeks. You may have to tweak it for balance. There shouldn’t be large gaps of free time, but you shouldn’t be working 60 hours a week or watching TV all weekend either. Scheduling diverse activities will keep you from getting bored and make you a more well-rounded person.

Remaining Flexible

Becoming fixated on a routine defeats its purpose. You fought hard to break free from addiction, so don’t become a slave to your schedule.

Don’t neglect loved ones just for the sake of ticking off items on your list. Don’t get into a predictable rut where you stagnate. Pencil in plenty of time for classes or new activities that you’ve always wanted to try.

Be flexible. As long as your choices support sobriety, you’re okay. Feel free to skip the garage cleaning on a beautiful day. Take the kids to the park instead.

At Desert Cove Recovery, we’re committed to supporting you through each stage of the journey. If you need help getting started on a routine, call us today to speak with an experienced counselor.


How Volunteering Could Help Prevent Substance Abuse

Prevent Substance AbuseCollege student athletes are under tremendous pressure. They usually follow strict guidelines, workout times and game schedules while still having to maintain a passing GPA. Additionally, due to the nature of their physical activity, they are also more likely to sustain injuries that require medical intervention. Because of these stressors, this group can often become more susceptible to use and misuse drugs. In an effort to combat this phenomenon, researchers from the University of Missouri looked into what could help prevent student athletes avoid substance abuse and addiction problems.

The specific group these researchers decided to focus their study on was female student athletes. So, in a five-year study, female Division 3 student athletes were asked to self-report on their substance use, social, work and sports life, as well as any other stressors they were experiencing. At the end of the five years, researchers were able to conclude that the participants who spent part of their time volunteering or helping others in some other way were less likely to use drugs.

“Female student-athletes experience increased demands while in college from coaches and professors to family and friends. Because student-athletes occupy multiple roles simultaneously, they could be at an increased risk for substance abuse to cope with stress. Our findings suggest that community service might be a tool to reduce substance abuse among female student-athletes,” explained Alexandra Davis, one of the leaders of the research team.

The researchers went on to point out that these conclusions have an impact on colleges throughout the country. As part of the ongoing effort to reduce substance use on campus, colleges may want to look into volunteer programs for their students, providing them with an opportunity to help others and reduce their own odds of misusing drugs and alcohol.

Although this study was specifically focused on females, the results are likely similar if applied to other specialized populations as well. Scientists, religious leaders and scholars have continually demonstrated the power of giving, and this is yet another application of how it helps to enhance lives.

Straight Talk with Teens for Drug Abuse Prevention

drug prevention groupHeroin use among 18-25 year olds has more than doubled since 2002, but remains low still for younger teenagers, thankfully. However, given the national trend, we must place extra attention on prevention efforts to keep our youth safe so that they not only remain drug-free in high school, but are better prepared for their time afterward.

Instead of incorporating heroin education in catchy slogans, or scare tactics, many people are educating students simply by talking to them and sharing open, honest and real information. This straight-talk version of drug education may be seeing better results than any other campaign. For instances, some high schools have implemented clubs that are centered around drug abstinence and positive peer influence.

Clubs that focus on staying healthy and revolve around education and engaging in activities that are drug-free are not a new concept. In fact, some form of these clubs have been around for decades. Some of the more recent activity has been focused on the heroin problem and the decisions that many teens have to face regarding it and other drugs.

“All of our students have a story of somebody in their family who is an addict or a friend of a family member or something of that nature,” explained Erin Parsons, a history teacher and co-founder of the Marshall Country Drug Free Club.

Perhaps one of the most influential aspects to drug-free clubs is the power of peer influence. Heroin experimentation is arguably a peer-driven activity, and clubs like the one in Marshall County are looking to use that same phenomenon for positivity. The more agreement that can take place among young people to stay away from heroin, painkillers and other drugs, the more they can have an impact on the behaviors of their peers and avoid the pitfalls of millions of young adults who wind up needing treatment for their substance abuse.

Athletics May Prevent Teens From Abusing Drugs

athletics help prevent drug abuseA new study recently completed by researchers at the University of Michigan shows that teenagers who are involved with sports are less likely to abuse heroin and prescription drugs. With the opioid epidemic that our nation is currently facing, more people are searching out factors that can be applied as a preventative measure.

In the past, researchers have found that children and teenagers in high contact sports are considered more likely to abuse prescription painkillers after being prescribed medications for injuries. In fact, other studies have shown that teenagers that are prescribed prescription painkillers for injuries are 33% more likely to abuse opioids after the prescription runs out.

However, this new study provides an alternate view on teenage sports. According to lead researcher, Philip Veliz, most sports that teenagers participate in are not high contact, high injury sports. These less violent sports provide a protective barrier between drug use and teenagers, and the percentage of those helped by the athletics is far greater than those that are potentially harmed.

“The unfortunate pattern of prescription painkiller misuse to heroin use was not something that was more likely to occur among athletes either moderately or highly involved in sports,” explained Veliz, lead author of the study and an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan.

Before reaching this conclusion, the research team poured over information gathered in the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey from 1997 to 2014. They found that over 53% of eighth- and tenth-graders reported being highly involved in some sort of sport. Nearly 39% of respondents stated that they were moderately involved in sports and almost 8% reported that they did not participate in sports. The teenagers were then asked questions regarding their prescription drug and heroin use. Those who participated heavily in sports were much less likely to abuse drugs than those that did not participate in sports at all.

While some critics point out that the amount of teenagers participating in violent sports needs to be addressed, the study does show that extracurricular activities can be important in keeping children and teenagers away from drugs.

The Danger of Teenage Boredom and Substance Abuse

amjournadaA new study aimed at determining if young marijuana users are more likely to abuse other illicit drugs has revealed interesting data regarding motivators for these behaviors. Research taken from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a nationwide survey given to young people regarding drug and alcohol use, has shown that boredom can lead to further drug use among teenagers. The study did not reveal if marijuana is a gateway drug, but researchers are hopeful that the information uncovered will lead to more effective preventative measures for teenagers.

“Programs and education efforts, for example, can benefit from knowing that marijuana users who use because they are bored are more likely to use certain other drugs. It may be feasible for prevention programs to address ways of coping with factors such as boredom in order to decrease risk,” explained Joseph J. Palamar, assistant professor of population health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and participant in the research study.

Tailoring prevention programs to include ways to avoid boredom may help prevent many teenagers from engaging in drug abuse. After school programs, sports, civic groups, the arts and other constructive activities are examples of ways that young people can be involved in life and not get caught up in substance abuse as easily. The study itself was published in the American Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

While it is still difficult to determine if it is accurate to call marijuana a gateway drug, the study did show that out of the 2.8 million people who admitted to abusing drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, 70% started off smoking marijuana. Joseph J. Palamar included in his interview that addicts addicted to various drugs all seemed to have different reasons for abusing drugs and different paths that led them to that abuse. So, while it is unclear how big of a factor marijuana plays in long term drug use, it is clear that marijuana is the drug of choice for those starting out on a path that ultimately leads to harder, more dangerous drugs.

Soldier Educates Peers on the Dangers of Substance Abuse in the Military

greenagelSome people may not realize that the number of active military personnel abusing drugs is higher than the national average. Due to the mental and physical strains that soldiers are put through, many suffer from injuries and are given painkillers and other prescription drugs. After a few weeks of taking the pills, many soldiers become addicted to the drugs. Regardless of how they became addicted, drug abuse is a major problem that needs to be addressed and one ex-soldier is willing to take on the task.

Frank L. Greenagel, Jr. left the military ten years ago. During his time away from the uniform he has taught high school, become a counselor with a focus on drug addiction and opened up a half-way house for recovering addicts in New Jersey. He has also served on a special substance abuse task force.

Greenagel has recently started working with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard so that he can help soldiers suffering from drug and alcohol addictions. He believes that drug abuse is such a problem in the military that they need to reshape policy and take a more aggressive stance against the problem if they want to see it ever get better. So, Greenagel re-enlisted and reported for duty as a behavioral health officer. In this new position he will be able to counsel soldiers with drug problems and post-traumatic stress disorder, which oftentimes leads to a life of drug abuse.

“The saddest cases are the ones where the soldiers were put on prescription drugs by the military and then it became a problem,” he recently commented. Unfortunately, prescription drug abuse is a bigger problem among those in the military than civilians and it shows no signs of slowing down. In three years the amount of active duty soldiers that admitted to abusing prescription drugs rose 7%.

It is clear that Frank Greenagel and others in similar positions have a lot of work to do in their quest to rid the military of its drug problems. In addition to counseling soldiers, Greenagel hopes that he can educated officers on the signs of drug abuse and ways to avoid prescribing such dangerous drugs like Oxycontin or Percocet, so as to prevent more soldiers from developing addictions.

Drug Policy Reform Supports Treatment, Prevention

ondcpreformIn the beginning of July, President Obama released the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy. It outlined what needed to happen to improve the drug problem in the United States. Included in the report was the emphasis that more attention to addiction treatment and prevention needed to be made.

While the White House maintained a firm stance that they will not legalize drugs, they did point out that there was no way to win the war on drugs by strictly relying on the judicial system. The report listed a few startling statistics that indicate the magnitude of the drug problem in the United States and why criminal justice reform was also a necessary component.

Michael Botticelli, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) gave a speech where he listed out statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He stated that the amount of drug overdose deaths have now exceeded homicides and car accidents. Botticelli indicates that this is mostly caused by the increase in opiates such as heroin and narcotic painkillers. The drug czar went on to say that every day an average of 110 people in the United States die from a drug overdose. Of those people, half of them are related to prescription drugs.

These startling statistics paint a gloomy picture. Botticelli and President Obama made it clear that there are ways to prevent drug abuse. They stated that best way to handle a drug problem is to stop it before it even starts. This seems logical to most people, but insufficient efforts have been made thus far. Therefore, increased efforts to maximize prevention programs across the country are part of the new drug strategy. Not only is prevention the easiest way to lessen the drug problem in the United States, it is also the most cost effective on a long-term basis.

There are several indications that a person is abusing alcohol or other drugs. The ONDCP director listed several characteristics of drug abuse for the audience, but specifically he spoke to healthcare providers, saying that they need to be vigilant in recognizing substance abuse addiction. He spoke about a nurse who noticed that her patient was wearing long sleeves in the summer. Upon examination the nurse was able to identify needle marks and referred the patient to treatment.

Paying more attention to the behaviors of people around us all can help spot trouble before it gets worse and help get more people into treatment before something more tragic happens. If you have a loved one in need of a long-term rehabilitation program for a drug or alcohol problem, contact Desert Cove Recovery today.

Is Addiction Really a Never-Ending Problem?

researchAt the recently-held Heroin Summit in Cleveland, Ohio, one of the doctors of the Cleveland Clinic treatment center exclaimed that addiction needed to be addressed indefinitely. Whether he was referencing individual addiction or the societal problem as a whole wasn’t clear, but it brings up some interesting points, comparisons and theories.

For starters, there are millions of examples throughout history of people who have become addicted and then fully recovered after getting some form of help, therapy or rehabilitation. Whether you want to say they are still diseased but just in remission, or you want to say that they have been cured, either way it could be correctly argued in most cases. The point isn’t what to call it, but what the results are. If someone stopped being addicted and moved on to have a wonderful life free from substance abuse, then that is what should be celebrated. To say that the individual needs to be addressed indefinitely may not always be an applicable description.

However, things may be different on a societal level. Aside from successful treatments of addiction, there is the issue of prevention. Yes, there are definitely many effective prevention measures and programs that have been implemented throughout the country, but even with the best there seems to be some young people who still get caught in the trap. Not only that, but there are many adults who become dependent on prescription drugs, such as painkillers after a surgery, who go on to become fully addicted. Can this be avoided?

Perhaps the only way to really prevent addiction on a global scale would be to have individualized prevention programs for each person, regardless of the age. The indefinite part would be vigilance on understanding the unique social, genetic, mental and other factors that combine to create an addiction problem so that the education and prevention can be uniquely tailored for each person throughout his or her lifetime.

These may be huge goals that could be very difficult to accomplish, but we like to keep on the optimistic side of things, as we see people successfully recover each day here at Desert Cove, and can work with people to help develop effective prevention plans as well.