By Devon Berkheiser, Psy.D.
Recovery is a major change that affects your entire lifestyle. When your energy is not spent on obtaining or using a desired substance, you might wonder what to do with your time or how to exist in “normal” life. Additionally, it’s common for people in early recovery to experience something of a slump after the first few weeks of sobriety. Perhaps you were expecting everything to be magically better once you got sober, but instead feel disappointed with the somewhat mundane nature of life in recovery. Although it can be a big transition, there are some things that you can do in order to make the adjustment to regular life easier. Here are 5 tips for getting used to normal life:
1. Learn to tolerate boredom and discomfort
While we all want to experience fun and excitement, it’s important to recognize that many important daily tasks and activities can be boring, monotonous, or even stressful. Have realistic expectations for what your typical days and weeks will look like and learn to tolerate moments of boredom.
2. Create the right amount of structure
While it’s important to tolerate downtime, too much of it can be problematic. Try to find the right balance of structure, so that you are not too bored but not too stressed. Fill your days with a good mixture of productive activity and time for relaxation and self-care. And don’t forget to include some time for fun! We all need to let loose every once in a while (in a healthy way, of course).
3. Give it time
It’s likely that your addictive behaviors became more important than nearly everything else in your life. You may have stopped or greatly reduced your participation in productive and enjoyable activities and hobbies. Or perhaps you need to find new, healthy activities to enjoy. Either way, recognize that it will take time to establish your new lifestyle, and be patient with yourself. If you take small, consistent steps toward your goals, you will see progress over time.
We all need support, and it’s especially important for those in early recovery. Therapy and self-help meetings are not only a way to get support, but also a safe place to discuss the challenges that you face on your recovery journey. Reaching out to people who have successfully established a “normal” life after addiction can be particularly helpful and can provide hope that you will be able to do it too.
5. Remember your goals
Keep your motivation up by remembering your long-term goals. Perhaps you want a meaningful career or a fulfilling relationship. Whatever it is that you are working toward, keep your eye on the prize and remember that the small steps that often feel insignificant are in fact necessary in order to achieve the big picture.