There’s a lot to process when going through recovery— a lot of physical changes, emotions, overwhelm, and hope. Many who go through a structured treatment program experience a strong desire to return to a sense of normalcy.
Getting back to normal takes time and work, and may seem out of reach during the early days. Yet, there are things you can do to guide the process. Here are six tips for returning to normalcy during recovery.
Many people are tired of the term “new normal” in the post-pandemic world. Yet, it has merit in a recovery situation. Consider what “normal” looked like during active addiction or substance misuse. It likely led to some events and concerns that made sobriety a necessity. The desire to return to normal may actually be a desire to return to routine, and to feel like you did before substances took control.
Take some time to reflect on what normal looks like to you, personally. What do you want your average day to look like? What habits and factors are required to get you there? Clarifying what “normal” means to you removes the abstract and gives you a clear target as you manage your sobriety.
For many people in recovery, returning to normal means getting back to work and creating some financial stability. If you had to take time off for addiction treatment, you may feel trepidation about returning.
It’s essential to understand that there are laws in place to protect employees undergoing addiction treatment. Substance use disorders fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prevents employers from firing someone for seeking professional help.
Talk to your employer and discuss your desire to return to work and what your ongoing treatment entails. Most employers are supportive and work with you to manage stress and responsibility. For those who aren’t, the law is on your side. However, striving to seek new employment could be better for your mental health and wellness.
Lean on your people during this time. Identify the key people in your life you can rely upon to offer emotional support. Be open to discussing your challenges and share the value of having someone to listen.
Share your vision of normalcy and discuss how you can get there together within the boundaries of your sobriety. For example, if you had a friend with whom you’d share a bottle of wine, maybe you can try a nice brunch or breakfast date instead.
One of the challenging parts of sobriety that makes it difficult to feel normal is the necessary shift in social relationships. It’s crucial to distance yourself from those who put your sobriety at risk. You may also have damaged relationships from events that occurred during active addiction. Reaching out and finding others going through similar situations can help ease this transition. Similarly, finding new social groups and activities that don’t center around substance use is also beneficial.
Having a strong professional support network in place is also essential on your journey back to normalcy. Working with a therapist or support group provides a platform to vent about the challenges you’re facing and develop strategies to move forward.
As previously mentioned, most people who desire a sense of normalcy are really missing a routine. Structure and habit-building are essential for continued sobriety and can make your life feel more stable and consistent.
Outline a daily routine that prioritizes your sobriety. Your recovery will always be number one on the to-do list. Incorporate self-care activities as a part of your daily routine and write them down as though they’re scheduled appointments. Try to make your routine as consistent as possible to avoid stressors, especially during the early days.
Setting small, daily goals for yourself can also help you sketch out a routine. Things like drinking enough water or engaging in physical activity are goals that contribute to holistic health and improve your recovery experience.
Know that while your routine should be consistent and predictable, it’s not set in stone. You may decide to try new things or experience external factors that necessitate change. However, starting with the structure of a routine will help you start feeling normal faster.
One of the common tips shared with people in recovery from those on the outside is to think positively. While it is important to focus on the positives and practice gratitude, it’s not always that simple.
Negative or intrusive thoughts are a part of the process, especially on difficult days. Instead of focusing on thinking positively, focus on your thought processing.
When you experience a negative thought, identify it and ask yourself where it came from. What factors are making you feel this way? Remind yourself that thoughts and feelings aren’t facts, and ask whether this thought is the truth. In most cases, negative thoughts catastrophize or predict an unknown future; they’re not factual.
Once you start to unwind and process the negative emotions, you can work on reframing them into positive thoughts.
The advice to take things one day at a time may seem cliché, but it’s real. Things don’t happen overnight, good or bad. It likely took time to get to a point where you realized you needed help with your substance use, and it will take time to feel normal again. This is a fact for recovery, whether you’re recovering from a sports injury, addiction, childbirth, trauma, etc.
Know that there is no timeline for feeling normal and that every milestone should be celebrated. Don’t hesitate to celebrate when you get through a hard day, survive your first week back at work, or try something new. Noting these seemingly small events will help you track your progress and see how far you’ve come.
Everyone’s recovery journey and definition of normal look different. Take some time to determine what you want your new normal to be, and how you can get there as a healthy, recovering individual.
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