Beginning recovery, it is important to retrain our minds to think and process emotions differently and make conscious decisions to change.

It is time to learn how to choose sober activities, sober events, how to process emotions in a sober way, that doesn’t require drinking or using.

The addiction that has been the way we self-medicate for a long period of time, is now something that we can never do again.

Train your mind that this new lifestyle is your ONLY lifestyle option. Remember the reasons why you chose to get sober in the first place.

Respond efficiently to triggers, redirect your mind and choose new activities. Try to stay connected with society, grieve and accept the change of your new lifestyle.

Triggers: Recognize and Respond

It is important to recognize and respond appropriately to our triggers, avoiding those that have led back to drinking and drug use in the past.

The first step is identifying our fear(s).

In a journal, you could write about past times when the trigger came up, what your reaction was, where it occurred, who you were with, and what you were doing. Then, think and write about what you would have liked to do differently in your reaction.

Using a journal to keep track of triggers will help you recognize them in the future, as well as strengthening yourself.

By learning about them and working on the reaction you want to have with them, you will eventually be able to move past that trigger.

If you are placed in a situation that is similar to a previous trigger, you will be able to recognize it and respond more quickly and appropriately than you have in the past, because you’ve already conquered that trigger in your mind.

Redirecting Thoughts

As we know, a relapse often happens when we’re bored- those moments when we’re sitting at home, watching a movie or scrolling on social media- can often be the most difficult. After all, “idle hands are the devil’s playground”. 

Without participating in activities that give us inspiration, purpose and leave our bodies and minds exhausted at the end of the day, the little itch can come to the back of our minds.

However, that feeling isn’t boredom, it is the feeling of freedom.

You’re no longer trapped in those previous thoughts and feelings about addiction.

Redirecting your mind will help you learn to change your perspective in moments of boredom, as opposed to dwelling on your addiction.

Once you get to the point of being able to control your thoughts, people typically engage in activities to avoid being bored.

For a period of time, all we knew was our addiction. Being sober, it is key to learn how to fill our days with purposeful activities.

A crucial aspect of long term success is finding a couple of hobbies that you really enjoy.

Here is a list of potential activities that you can try!

  • Getting lunch with friends
  • Painting
  • Taking up photography
  • Going to a movie
  • Hiking
  • Golfing
  • Sports
  • Yoga or weightlifting

Working to retrain our minds will help allow us to rest and feel safe. Don’t always be in a rush, slow down and train your sober mind.

When non-sober thoughts come into your mind, work to reshape them and think of something else, or think about what you are grateful for and things that are important to you.

Remember that if you get stuck in the past, you won’t be able to move forward. You are sober, and it is okay to struggle – you are a different person than you were when you were struggling with addiction.

It’s okay to give yourself time to re-train and re-think.

Connect With Others

During your process of recovery, it’s important to stay connected and surround yourself with other strong and healthy people who are in recovery.

Whatever that means for you, whether it is participating in local recovery support groups, possibly attending AA or NA meetings, hanging out with others in their recovery as well, etc.

Aftercare programs and connecting with as many other individuals in recovery as possible will help you through your own recovery.

One of the hardest things to do during recovery is separating ourselves from things holding us back, but it is also one of the most important.

This means separating ourselves from non-sober friends, avoiding a visit to old hangouts or places you used to visit when drinking or using. Consciously avoiding potentially-triggering situations or activities, etc.

Develop new hobbies, make new friends, and surround ourselves with others in recovery. This will help re-shape our thinking, retraining your mind that this new lifestyle, is your ONLY lifestyle option.

Make this new lifestyle your reality.

Accepting Change

Once we become sober, it does not mean the process of change is complete. Our path of recovery is indefinite, which is a challenge itself.

No one ever said the change to sobriety would be easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Feeling anger, loss, grief, or bitterness right out of the gates of sobriety, grieving your old lifestyle is natural.

Before recovery, addiction had been the central focus of our lives for so long, and is now something that we can never do again. The only comfort we have known is gone, and that creates this huge gap in our lives that we now have to work to fill.

Don’t let these negative feelings about losing your old lifestyle affect your sobriety. This is where retraining your mind is used the most. You need to re-shape your feelings towards a lost past.

This doesn’t mean that you forget it, or try to pretend it didn’t exist. It is important to remember and work with our past. To learn from it is the most efficient way to get through it. It has been said that ‘grief is not about forgetting, but remembering with less pain.‘

Change is going to keep happening, and we need to be accepting of it, not seeing it as a negative thing. Remember why you are working on recovery; that may be a key to keep you moving forward.

Take the opportunity to learn from the past, and remember that through the difficult times that come with recovery and sobriety.