When you’re recovering from a substance abuse disorder, the fear of relapse is always at the forefront of your thoughts. You already know you need a good support system but you can’t always have someone by your side. Fortunately, there are a few way to beat the beast when you’re left to your own devices.
Diet and exercise
If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you have to start from within. What you eat and how you treat your body can make or break your recovery effort. Eating well isn’t as hard as you think. When grocery shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store and avoid boxed and bagged foods. Swap processed snacks for easy-to-eat fruits such as bananas, grapes, or apples. You can find out more about nutrition by visiting the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Your physical activities also play a significant role in your recovery. Strive for at least 30 to 45 minutes of intense movement each day. Vary your routine between aerobic and anaerobic exercises; for instance, you may swim one day and do yoga the next. Aerobic exercises, swimming included, get your blood pumping. Anaerobic exercises, those which work specific muscle groups, like yoga, strengthen your muscles and core. We use swimming and yoga as examples as these are two popular alternative therapy activities used by drug treatment centers across the country.
When you exercise, your body releases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These are the same chemicals that trigger addictive behaviors. However, in the case of exercise, the brain begins to look forward to the natural high of physical exertion instead of seeking out risky behaviors. Cathe Friedrich, a fitness instructor certified by the American Council on Exercise since 1986, explains that people in the throes of depression often have less serotonin than their happy-go-lucky counterparts. She further reports that a regular exercise routine is, “as effective as prescription antidepressants for easing depression.”
There is also mounting evidence that exercise can help reverse the signs of aging.
Cosmopolitan points out that the increased circulation associated with exercise delivers oxygen to your skin cells, improving your overall appearance and helping you regain your skin vibrancy. (This Time photo series illustrates the correlation between drug use and premature aging.)
Forgive. But don't forget.
When you were using, you may have done things you now regret. Part of a healthy recovery plan involves making amends. The first step is to take responsibility for your actions and rectify issues where you can. You’ll also need to face the reality that you can’t make up for everything and that continually punishing yourself will thwart your recovery efforts. You must forgive yourself for your behaviors and continue to pay reparations to friends and family by making a conscious effort to live productively each and every day.
Find a furry friend.
Dogs are the perfect companion when you’re recovering from substance abuse. They are nonjudgmental and love unconditionally. Dogs provide the opportunity to nurture and to demonstrate responsibility. But in addition to the mental health benefits of having a canine companion, your dog is an excellent workout buddy… And not just for walking.
Dog yoga (and yes, it’s a real thing) has gained popularity in recent years. Dogs are naturally inclined to stretch, lay down, and relax. More importantly, doing yoga, meditating, swimming, running, or hiking with your dog offers bonding time; it’s a chance to connect with a living creature at a time in your life when you likely feel disconnected from the world.
Your descent into the depths of dependency didn’t happen overnight and, likewise, recovery takes time. But, if you add diet and exercise to your everyday routine, you will be one step ahead of your addiction.
This article was written as a guest post by Constance Ray of Recovery Well.