You are your single greatest ally in your sobriety, and there are many alternative methods you can try that will help put — and keep — yourself on the path to sobriety.
Get Moving With Physical Activities
Exercise has proven benefits for people in recovery. Whether you are an avid athlete, rarely break a sweat, love group activities, or prefer solo sports, the possibilities for reaping the benefits of a more active lifestyle are practically endless. Whatever you decide to try, consult your physician about what level of physical activity you’re ready for, and be sure to start out slowly so you don’t put too much stress on your body.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Hit The Gym – The gym is a great place for people of all fitness levels. Gyms provide a variety of machines and equipment, so you never have to worry about being bored by a single workout option, and are therefore more likely to stick to your fitness routine. Many facilities also offer personal training services (and often, the first session is free), so you can work with a professional if you aren’t sure how to get started.
- Try A Team Sport – For those who loved playing in sports leagues as a kid, joining a recreational softball, basketball, soccer, or any other kind of sports team as an adult is a fantastic way to stay active. In addition to being a great way to meet new friends, being surrounded by team camaraderie can remind you how valuable you are and give your self-esteem a boost whether you win or lose.
- Take A Group Class – If you don’t have a fitness buddy but don’t want to work out alone, consider taking a group class. There are lots of studios that specialize in one or a few types of wellness practices, like yoga, kickboxing, and dance, and many gyms include group classes as part of their memberships. You can also check your local recreational center or community college, as many offer free classes as well.
- Stream A Video – It’s easier than ever to work out in the comfort of your own home thanks to exercise video streaming services and free sites like YouTube. They can be done solo or with a friend, and many workouts require little or no equipment. Videos are a great fitness option when you’re just getting your workout routine started or on days when it’s difficult to leave the house, but they’re so effective that plenty of people rely on them as their sole means of getting fit.
Pick Up A New Hobby
Finding a new hobby is a healthy, fulfilling way to channel your energy, especially when you’re embracing a new beginning free of drugs and alcohol. Pastimes that blend relaxation with artistic creativity can be especially beneficial. If you aren’t sure what your passion is, try one of these fun hobbies with a friend or on your own:
- Writing in a journal, poetry, short stories, or a memoir
- Painting, drawing, or sculpting
- Playing or writing music, or learning a new instrument
- Photography or videography. Buy a used GoPro or Drone
- Sewing, knitting, crocheting, or weaving
- Cooking or baking
- Crafting, like woodworking, jewelry-making, or collaging
Get Some Fresh Air
Being outdoors has countless mental health perks. In fact, many rehab facilities offer outdoor therapy as part of their treatment programs. You can promote your own emotional wellness by heading outside, even if you live in a bustling city. Here are a few ways to enjoy the benefits of the great outdoors no matter where you are:
- Take a walk in a local park, nature preserve, or just around a city block
- Have a picnic, either by yourself or invite a friend you haven’t talked to in a while
- Go on a camping, hammock or outdoor adventure — even if it’s just in your backyard
- Take a trip to the nearest beach — remember, lakes have beaches, too
- Head to the nearest mountain or park and hike a trail and go explore
- Plant a garden in your yard, on your windowsill, or on your rooftop if you live in an apartment building
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Spend Time With Animals
There is a reason dogs are known as man’s best friend: spending time with animals is good for the body and soul. If you don’t have a furry friend of your own, you can still spend time with creatures great and small and enjoy all of the wonderful physical and emotional boosts that a pet has to offer.
If you have a pet:
- Make time to play with your furry, scaled, feathered, or even bald friend every day
- Teach your pet a new trick or obedience command
- Take your dog with you on outdoor excursions like hiking or camping (but remember to keep them safe)
- Curl up with your buddy whenever you settle in with a book or relax with a show or movie
- Have a pet play date with a human friend and their companion
- Consider a rehab that allows pets to come with you
If you don’t have a pet:
- Consider adopting or fostering a pet in need of a home
- Volunteer at your local animal shelter
- Pet sit or walk dogs for your family, friends, and neighbors
- Go horseback riding
- Visit your local zoo, aquarium or humane society
It can be difficult to make ourselves focus on the here and now, especially if we’re going through a transition as life-changing as addiction recovery. But taking even a few minutes a day to be mindful of all we have in the present moment — and especially all we have to be grateful for — can help us feel more at peace with ourselves, our surroundings, and our circumstances. Here are a few ways to help yourself learn to be more mindful:
- Unplug – Whether we realize it or not, most of us are constantly connected to at least one mode of technology, be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or fitness tracker, and even when we’re not, we’re often planted in front of the television. Make time each day to free yourself from all of your electronic gadgets, even if you can only manage 15 minutes. Use that time to let your mind drift or your imagination run wild. For an added boost, spend this period outside, and take pleasure in the sights and sounds around you that don’t require a screen or set of headphones to enjoy.
- Listen Rather Than Speak – Because we’re constantly presented with ways to express ourselves via face-to-face interaction, phone calls, texting, and social media, it can be hard to actively listen to someone without planning what we’ll say next. Rather than readying your response with each conversation you have, try to actively listen instead. It may seem like a small action, but it’s one that will help you learn to focus on the present and be more mindful of what’s happening now.
- Meditation – Many people believe they’re incapable of meditating because they think it’s too difficult of a skill. The truth is that everyone can benefit from a little meditation time, even if it’s only for five minutes a day. This practice is simple in its essence, and teaches the art of focusing on one’s own breath rather than the outside noise of the world around them. If you’re new to meditation, there are lots of free smartphone apps and online videos that can help you get started.
- Yoga – Like meditation, yoga doesn’t have to be complicated, and it teaches practitioners how to focus on their breath and body movements. Yoga studios offer a variety of specialized classes under the direction of certified trainers, like Bikram, hot, gentle, and power yoga. Many gyms also offer general practice yoga classes to their members, while the internet provides both free and fee-based online sessions.
A Checklist for Loved Ones
There are many things you can do to help support someone in recovery. Although no one expects you to be perfect or know exactly what a recovering addict is going through — including your loved one — putting as many of these habits into practice as possible will go a long way in being an advocate for your addiction warrior.
- Listen with an open-heart – An important part of the recovery process is being able to talk through your experiences and feelings, which is why inpatient and outpatient programs offer one-on-one and group counseling sessions. After treatment, your loved one will still benefit from having someone to talk to who will listen without judgment. If you’re able to provide that support, you’re offering them a priceless piece of their recovery puzzle.
- Encourage them to find a community – It’s important for those in recovery to have a group of peers they can rely on that can relate to their experiences, although some people who are new to sobriety may feel hesitant to find one or don’t know where to look. Encourage them to attend support group meetings, find a sponsor, and/or work with a counselor.
- Ask questions – If you’ve never suffered from addiction, it’s perfectly normal if you don’t understand much of your loved one’s journey, and that’s OK. Be sensitive, but ask questions whenever you need to so you can be a better friend and listener. Often, your loved one will be happy to answer your questions, but try to be understanding if they’re not ready to provide you the insight you’re asking for.
- Encourage healthy habits – People who give up drugs and alcohol are making an active choice to be physically and mentally healthier, so reinforcing additional healthy behaviors is a huge means of support. Encourage them to adopt and stick with healthy habits, like eating well, exercising, participating in hobbies, and practicing healthy coping methods, and consider joining them whenever possible.
- Avoid presenting triggers – Eventually, your loved one may be perfectly happy to join you in a setting where temptations abound, like a bar or a party, but everyone’s timeline for getting to that point is different. Be sensitive about putting someone in a situation that might cause anxiety, especially in their first few months of sobriety.
- Stay aware and educated – In addition to asking your loved one questions, know the warning signs of relapse so you can spot trouble before it gets out of hand. If you’re worried about your loved one’s well-being, talk to them gently about your concerns. If you’re not comfortable approaching them, you may want to consider reaching out to their sponsor.
- Be accepting – Addiction is traumatic, and entering recovery is a remarkable, but difficult, life change. Try your best to accept your loved one for who they are wherever they are on their journey. Knowing they can turn to you as a loving, non-judgmental source of support is one of the greatest gifts you can give them in their new sober life.