Establishing a Daily Rehab Schedule

“The Importance of a Daily Routine” - Lynn Marie Staffa, LCSW A comment commonly heard from our clients is their struggle with sitting still.  They are at the beginning stages of their recovery from alcohol and drug abuse and they are feeling overwhelmed by their new reality of being sober.  They are no longer able to run away to their chemical refuge and this can be a major struggle.  For some clients, this could be their first time encountering daily life without relying on a substance through the day.  The mind is still in the healing stages from drug dependence and behavior.  Fortunately, these situations can be improved if they are willing to commit to a daily routine early on. A rehab schedule can be defined as a set of daily tasks or things that a person will try to follow each day.  This could include a set time when they wake up/go to sleep, eat meals, hygiene, exercise, participate in hobbies, clean/chores, attend recovery meetings, etc.  A routine is important because it gives the individual structure, while also creating familiarity and comfort.  Waking up each morning without a plan for the day may stray a person into the direction that they did not intend to go.  Developing stability can be through learning how to do what is expected, being on time, as well as being dependable and productive each day. Routine for those in early recovery is important in building self-confidence.  It may be difficult to follow a routine at first because one may feel exhausted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, or even not interested.  As they begin to follow a number of different expectations or tasks during the week, it eventually becomes easier and second nature.  There is a sense of accomplishment and eventual motivation to continue or strive for more.  Meeting new people or trying new activities will become easier as time continues as well.  With that confidence and comfort, when crisis or issues arise (and they will), the routine will provide something solid and positive that can help a person in recovery remain focused and get through those difficult times. In helping clients with establishing a rehab schedule, I often suggest that they be open to trying new activities.  Building a schedule is important for the day but the downtime where they find themselves facing boredom is the best time to be introduced to other interests.  Clients become more aware of activities that they never believed would be fun or entertaining before but soon these activities become something to look forward to.  I frequently explore this topic with clients and challenge them to not focus solely on their boredom with downtime but instead to identify new interests or even old interests that could be incorporated into their weekly schedule.  The client that really enjoyed playing tennis in high school, who has not played in several years, now has the opportunity to take up that activity again.  Or the client who takes the opportunity to join his peers in a game of ultimate Frisbee one afternoon may find a new hobby that he really enjoys.  In early recovery, it is believed that there are no activities out there that will ever be as fun as when one was using and this is something we as therapists hear very often.  Recovery takes a commitment of sober living, meeting new people and building a sober network, as well as opening oneself up to new interests and activities. One must also remember to be realistic in building a routine for themselves; trying to fit too much into a daily schedule can bring a lot of pressure and too little items can bring on boredom.  Also, an individual can become ‘too dependent’ on their daily routine meaning that they feel uncomfortable if changes arise.  These individuals may put their routines as priority over others and be weary of trying new things, as it may cause change in their usual schedule.  Others may feel bored because the routine is too predictable and then use that as a rationalization for a relapse.  Life is never certain and unexpected events or things may get in the way of one’s daily routine so it is important to be receptive to change.  It could be beneficial to keep a journal as a way to assess their commitment to the routine or where things need to be adjusted. Clients typically struggle with understanding the importance of routine in early recovery.  One of the biggest emotions that is reported to trigger relapse is boredom.  This is why therapists strive to help clients understand the importance of filling up a client’s time with a schedule of activities and/or responsibilities.  We try to connect how Turnbridge’s model of integration is helping them build a solid routine to prepare them to continue their path into recovery.  As always, they are reminded that this process will not happen overnight, but one will begin to see and feel the growth in themselves with a healthy routine.  It is always important to greet each coming day with optimism and anticipation for the commitment they have may towards their recovery.