Monday, September 5, 2011

Seven Days Sober: Managing Downtime

Being in recovery means living responsibly. Always acting intelligently and constantly guarding against relapse can be exhausting. It is easy to run out of energy and become tired and bitter. Life can become a cycle of sameness: getting up, going to work, coming home, lying on the couch, going to bed, and then doing it again the next day. People in recovery who allow themselves to get to this state of boredom and exhaustion are very vulnerable to relapse. It is difficult to resist triggers and relapse justifications when your energy level is so low.

The Old Answer

Drugs and alcohol provided quick relief from boredom and listlessness. All the reasons for not using substances can be forgotten quickly when the body and mind desperately need refueling.

A New Answer

Each person needs to decide what can replace substance use and provide a refreshing, satisfying break from the daily grind. What works for you may not work for someone else. It doesn't matter what nonusing activities you pursue during your downtime, but it is necessary to find a way to relax and rejuvenate. The more tired and beaten down you become, the less energy you will have for staying smart and committed to recovery.

Notice how often you feel stressed, impatient, angry, or closed off emotionally. These are signs of needing more downtime.

Journal Exercise:

Make a list of activities which would help rejuvenate you. Here are some examples:

  • Walking
  • Reading
  • Meditation or doing yoga
  • Listening to music
  • Playing with a pet
  • Taking a class
  • Painting, drawing
  • Writing
  • Fishing
  • Knitting
  • Scrapbooking
On a day when you're stressed and you realize that in the past you would have said, "I really need a drink" or "I need to get high today," what will you do now? What will you do in your downtime?

Information from:

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Counselor's Treatment Manual: Matrix Intensive Outpatient Treatment for People With Stimulant Use Disorders. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 08-4152. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2006; reprinted 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010

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