Protect Your Recovery
by Improving your Life Skills
Not so long ago, addiction recovery focused primarily on abstinence = simply no longer using the substance. Fortunately, there’s now evidence (and awareness) that true recovery involves much more than just not taking drugs or alcohol. Today’s most successful recovery efforts treat the whole person -- body, mind, and spirit -- to prepare them to handle life’s challenges without turning to substances for relief.
People often use drugs and alcohol as a means to escape their current reality or numb negative feelings. Successfully overcoming this behavioral pattern requires exploring the root cause, whether that’s underlying mental illness such as depression or anxiety, a history of negative life experiences or trauma, and/or just unhealthy coping skills or underdeveloped life skills.
And while there’s no universal recovery program that will fit each individual’s unique needs, many of the modern evidence-based approaches embrace the idea that improving life skills is a critical step toward ensuring long-term sobriety.
Some of the more common life skills featured during therapy in a recovery program include:
- Better communication techniques
- Healthy ways to handle stress and emotions
- Creating a daily routine
- Time management
- Learning to prioritize self-care
- Financial management
- Nutritional education
Communication Techniques & Handling Emotions
Many of us would benefit from an honest evaluation of our communication styles, which impact just about every aspect of daily life. Effective communication helps you define your needs positively and assertively, establish healthy relationship boundaries, and minimize situations that can leave you feeling angry or victimized -- reducing the likelihood that you’ll look for relief in drugs or alcohol.
Nevertheless, life will always bring challenges, which is why discovering healthy ways to handle emotions and stress is important. If relationship conflicts previously triggered you to escape with substances, you’ll want to look for healthier options during recovery -- whether that’s finding time to spend with friends, attending a 12-step program meeting, or even getting outside for a brisk walk. One big player in the battle to reduce stress is to just make sure you’re getting adequate sleep each night.
Routine is another life skill worth evaluating. Yes, you likely had a routine of sorts in place before rehab, but you’ll need to establish new, more productive habits and routines after treatment. One of the best ways to avoid slipping back into old habits is to replace them with new. For instance, if your previous routine was to stop by the neighborhood pub on the way home from work, you might look into signing up for an exercise class or another hobby into that time slot. Avoid slipping into familiar old (and counterproductive) routines by creating a new, predictable schedule for your days and nights.
In addition, most people struggle with time management at some point in their lives, but uncovering an awareness of and better controlling how you spend your time is another positive step to replace chaos and unpredictability with proactive organization. An easy way to improve your time management skills is to start by noting what you typically do every day, as well as how much time you allocate to each activity. Chart your activities for about a week, and then go back and look over each day to see where you could save time or work on minimizing distractions to help you get more done. For example, many people are most productive in the mornings, so you might want to dig into nonpreferred activities such as balancing your checkbook before you’re too tired and unmotivated. That said, be sure to give yourself adequate breaks throughout the day to prevent fatigue or burnout, which brings us to our next important life skill…
And we’re not necessarily referring to massages and warm baths (although those are perfectly acceptable). Sometimes self-care means establishing boundaries with friends and loved ones, or even declining a social invitation if you’ve had a frustrating day. Self-care can look vastly different from person to person, but a common thread is that it involves treating yourself with compassion. Understand that the recovery journey can feel new and sometimes challenging, and it’s OK to focus on what you need, whether that’s a movie, a strenuous hike with your dog, or even a quiet night in with a book.
This is another life skill that requires attention, and one that positively impacts many areas of your life. If your finances were in rough shape before recovery, now is the perfect time to take some financial education classes to learn how to live with a budget and make sound investments for the future. Getting money matters under control can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety levels.
Diet and Nutrition
Finally, no life skills list would be complete without mentioning nutrition, which is often one of the first healthy habit casualties when life gets hectic. What you put into your body has a big impact on how you feel, sleep, and function, so make it a priority to get a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, proteins, and whole grains and minimize the fast food visits.
While no treatment methods are guaranteed to ensure long-term sobriety, honestly evaluating and taking steps to improve your life skills is one critical step you can take to build personal resilience and find healthy ways to deal with life’s challenges throughout your recovery and beyond. Because true sobriety involves so much more than abstinence.
The Choice House Difference
We’re not just here to help with the first month of your recovery journey – we’re here to help you improve life skills that will benefit you for years to come. At our Boulder, Colorado long-term addiction rehab center for drug and alcohol abuse, we understand the value of looking at recovery as much more than just cessation of substance use, and we’re invested in helping you discover the methods that resonate with you personally.