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Why You Need Routine & Structure in Early Addiction Recovery

Routine & Structure in Early Addiction Recovery

Making the decision to get help at a drug rehabilitation center is an important step in your journey toward addiction recovery. Yet, recovery is a process—one that takes place over months and even years. Routine and structure are vital, especially in early recovery when temptation, cravings, and close calls are more likely.

What Exactly Is “Early” Recovery?

Every person’s experience is different, and there is no consensus on what exactly constitutes early recovery. Some groups consider it the first 90 days after getting clean; others, up to six months or even a year. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) identifies four stages of early recovery, as follows:

  • Stage 1 – Withdrawal (0-15 days): During this period, cravings to use are strong. You might sleep excessively and experience a range of emotions, including shame, fear, guilt, confusion, self-doubt, anxiety, depression, and irritability. It may be hard to concentrate or cope with stress. Medically supervised detox is often necessary during this stage, especially for people withdrawing from alcohol or opioids. While withdrawal can be an uncomfortable or painful process, it is usually short-lived.
  • Stage 2 – Honeymoon (16-45 days): During this stage, you may start to feel better physically and feel more confident and optimistic about life. Now more clearheaded, you may finally be able to envision a brighter future and imagine life as a sober person. It’s critical to stay in your treatment program and continue going to meetings during this time, as overconfidence can lead to relapse.
  • Stage 3 – The Wall (46-120 days): This is an especially critical time in recovery. You’re more vulnerable to relapse during this time, as the initial euphoria of making a new start wears off and the realities of daily life set in. You may have reduced energy or feel anxious, depressed, irritable, restless, or confused about your future. You might find it difficult to concentrate. All these feelings can lead to relapse—this is why routine and structure are vital at this time.
  • Stage 4 – Adjustment (121-180 days): While it may feel like you’ve been sober for an eternity by the end of six months, the reality is that you’re still in the early stages of recovery. Life may finally start to feel normal as you adjust to your new way of life. Yet, it’s not uncommon to feel restless, anxious, and lonely during this period, especially if you’ve cut off ties with former party friends. Cravings may subside during this phase, which can lead to overconfidence—you may be tempted to put yourself in risky situations (like meeting someone at a bar or spending time with old friends). It’s critical to go to meetings regularly and resist falling into the overconfidence trap during this period.

These timeframes are just a general guideline. No two people have the same experience in recovery. That said, the benefits of routine and structure apply almost universally to those recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Why is routine so important? Let’s explore.

Routine can help you maintain stability.

Stability is one of the most important reasons for having a routine. Going to work or school every day, attending meetings daily, exercising, making meals at home, shopping for groceries, getting together with family or friends—all these things provide a sense of stability and normalcy, which are critical for both short- and long-term sobriety.  Routine is especially important in the early months of recovery when temptation, cravings, and self-doubt can send you down the wrong path.

routine can help maintain stability

Routine can help you reestablish lost trust.

When you’re caught in the grip of addiction, it’s easy to neglect responsibilities like meeting work obligations, paying bills, making good on promises, and just generally being accountable to others. Establishing a routine and sticking to it can help you reestablish credibility with people in your life, including your parents, close friends, your employer, and others. Everyone benefits when you keep promises, fulfill responsibilities, and are fully present.

Routine can help boost self-confidence.

Having a routine and daily responsibilities can help you rebuild confidence. Completing tasks and goals you’ve set for yourself can be very rewarding. You may not complete everything on your to-do list every day—and that’s okay. There are days you might feel exhausted or overwhelmed. Self-care is so important in these moments. Go to meetings, reach out to your sponsor, and talk with a trusted friend or family member. As you stick to your routine each day, your self-confidence will grow.

routine can help boost self confidence

Routine can prepare you for more responsibility.

Staying sober is your primary focus during early recovery, but this singular goal won’t always dominate your day-to-day experience like it does in early recovery. You want to feel at peace and secure in your sobriety, but you also have other goals and aspirations. Routine and structure can help you build the confidence necessary to take on more responsibility down the line. Over time, you’ll know when you’re ready. Soon, things you thought were never possible, like pursuing your dream career, getting married, having kids, or starting your own business, may feel within reach.

Routine can help ease anxiety.

Having an excessive amount of unscheduled time on your hands can be a source of anxiety in early recovery. When you get up in the morning without a plan for the day, your mind can easily wander, and you may start to feel anxious. You may stray off in the wrong direction. Sticking to an established routine and staying productive can help prevent feelings of anxiety. Even if it goes against your nature, the predictability of a routine is vital in early recovery.

routine can help ease anxiety

Routine can help in times of crisis.

Life is unpredictable. A crisis can strike at any time. It could be losing your job, experiencing a death in the family, being diagnosed with a medical condition, going through a breakup, or breaking ties with a long-time friend. Sometimes, a series of minor crises can build up and make life feel overwhelming. Stress is a leading cause of relapse. Having routine and structure—and going to meetings daily—can be critical during these times. Routine can help keep you grounded even when the unexpected happens.

Tips for Handling in Early Recovery

While taking on a certain amount of responsibility is good in early recovery, it’s also possible to go overboard and take on too much. Here are some tips for establishing a manageable routine:

  • Start off slowly and consistently—don’t overwhelm yourself with too much.
  • Take good care of yourself with a healthy diet, exercise, and activities you enjoy.
  • Eat three meals a day and make meals for yourself whenever possible. Preparing your own meals can help you make better food choices, and it adds a healthy dose of responsibility to your daily routine.
  • Strive to get 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation can have a serious negative impact on your mood and emotions.
  • Attend meetings (such as NA or AA) daily during your first 90 days of recovery.
  • Limit extracurricular activities and social engagements during early recovery; overloading your calendar can quickly bog you down and start to feel overwhelming.

You’re Not Alone—Help Is Available

drug addiction treatment programs

Wherever you are in your journey—whether you’re thinking about getting sober, you recently completed detox, or you’re in the early stages of addiction recovery, Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers can help.

Our personalized alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs are tailored to meet your unique needs. We offer several options for people who are considering addiction treatment or who are in the early stages of recovery, including:

Our programs incorporate individual, family, and group counseling sessions and other services in a safe, supportive environment.

Please call us today at (855) 859-8808 to learn more about our programs and state-of-the-art drug treatment centers.

A new path forward begins at Retreat Premier Addiction Treatment Centers.