When a recovering addict is asked to make lifestyle changes, the reaction can be instinctive and negative. It can sound as if the cure is more complicated than the disease, as if the rehabilitative step was asking too much of someone in recovery. Does this mean you should give up the music you like or go to different movies? What lifestyle changes are important to make and which are not?
Moreover, it sounds as if the addict is being asked to give up the one comfort they know in life, which is their addictive substance or behavior and now they have to give up their friends, favorite foods and everything else! It can be a bit overwhelming.
But losing an addictive substance or behavior is such a fundamental part of an addict’s life that many changes are naturally going to occur simply because of this. Alcoholics, for example, enjoy hanging out with other alcoholics, because they do not threaten them with admonishments to stop drinking. Drug addicts generally hang out with other drug users. Once they go into rehabilitation, however, it becomes almost natural for the recovering addict to stay away from old friends who are still using drugs or drinking. It’s the same reason if you are on a diet that you avoid going into a pastry shop, a candy store, or an ice cream parlor. It’s natural to make some changes here.
Some other changes also occur naturally. This follows, because a recovering addict has to learn how to take care of his or herself in ways they had not done for a while. All of this requires a new, heightened sense of honesty. They need to learn to pay attention to their health and personal responsibilities. Once they begin to appreciate that, it makes running off to the nearest party to become less critical. If an addict is sincere about recovery, giving up many of the harmful habits they have developed becomes not only a necessity but also a natural and positive step.
Here are some of the lifestyle changes that are recommended. They sound extraordinary on paper, but in real life, they are correlated to sobriety. Some of these take time before they become completely natural, however.
Restore overall health
Addicts tend to avoid seeing a doctor. They have other priorities. They tend to avoid people they know will urge them to clean up. By the time they reach recovery, however, an addict’s neglect catches up with them. But if health issues go unattended, they add stress to someone’s life, and addicts need to avoid extra stress, which promotes relapse. Recovery includes a new attitude and new habits when it comes to personal responsibilities.
Seek new interests or reconnect with old ones
Stopping an addiction will naturally open up many new options to someone in recovery. All that time, they spend protecting their addiction and pursuing it are available. You’d be surprised how much time is now available to reconnect with other interests. Pick up that camera and reconnect with photography. Start learning a musical instrument. Revisit the library or local museums. Take up gardening or golf or jogging.
Making new friends
Making new friends sounds like a condemnation of old friends, and this is partly the issue. Addicts like to surround themselves with other addicts because they provide a buffer between them and anyone who might challenge their lifestyle. A recently sober addict is very vulnerable to temptation when connecting with using addicts. It’s best to make new friends who are not using.
While making new friends can take a long time, one avenue for the recovering addict is to make new friends among recovering addicts. This is the perfect time to make friends who understand what you are going through. Make new friends through 12-Step meetings or support groups until other avenues for new friends open up to you.
It can take time for an addict to get used to the concept of honesty. This is something that takes time to develop because addicts are just as dishonest with themselves than they are with other people. As such, they really have to reverse a pattern that has become part of their lifestyle during their addiction.
New diets, new fitness regime
Once you start becoming honest with yourself, many other parts of your life are opened up to change. Eating poorly doesn’t make sense anymore. Failing to exercise suddenly seems an obvious place to make a change.
The recovery gestalt
Asking a recovering addict to make lifestyle changes seems at first to be overwhelming – even punitive. Why should a recovering alcoholic also give up ice cream? What’s the point of that?
The point is that all the factors of recovery tie in together. If an addict is committed to recovery, the rest of the process falls into place. Honesty dictates many changes, and they will be much more natural than you might first suspect. With a commitment to recovery, an addict really won’t want the same friends. They will begin to seek out improvements in many aspects of their lives. It isn’t punitive, it’s positive. Simply put: it’s part of the package.