What Do I Do Now That I Have All Of This Free Time?
Once you decide to begin treatment and a life of recovery, your schedule is going to see a big shift. After quitting drugs and alcohol, you may suddenly have a lot of free time on your hands. Many people feel like they do not know what to do with this newfound freedom. Managing this phase of recovery is important because, without staying vigilant, boredom or stress can set in and may sabotage your earlier success. This challenge is also an opportunity to rebuild a healthy lifestyle and daily routine, which will guide the trajectory of your future recovery. Once your body gets in sync with a new rhythm of regular activities, it will be easier to build stress-free leisure time into your life.
What Are the Dangers Around This Freedom?
During active addiction, substance use takes up a big part of your time. Once you enter treatment and the substance is no longer around, it is hard to fill all that time. This freedom is necessary for detox because it takes time for both your body and your mind to reset.
As most recovering individuals know, it is often hard to relax and be still with your thoughts. That is sometimes why people use substances—to self-soothe and escape. Having a lot of free time on hand can be a cause for boredom, a big trigger for cravings and relapse. Apart from boredom, another danger related to this phase of freedom is stress and anxiety. You might also be undergoing withdrawal symptoms that cause anxiety and depression. People with co-occurring compulsive disorders may also find it hard to relax and end up developing new sources of stress. Relaxation techniques, time management skills, and a healthy routine are all effective strategies to deal with the boredom, stress, and anxiety of having more free time.
What Are the Benefits of Recovery Time Management and a Healthy Routine?
A balanced life between striving and relaxation is good for the body and the mind. While in recovery, routines and leisure time are equally important. You need to balance the work and play aspects of life. The challenge lies in how to manage your time to foster positive outcomes from both sides. To escape boredom, some people create unnecessary routines to fill their time during recovery. This might well lead to recovery burnout, which is counterproductive to your goal. Others might be resistant to more structured time and prefer to keep to themselves. Isolation and boredom are not conducive to recovery either. The key is to find a balance between these two modes and maintain it.
The truth is, nobody is born with good time management skills; it is a skill we must learn. To those who like routines, there needs to be more room for fun activities and relaxation. To those who have the habit of doing nothing or procrastinating, new routines can be introduced to make the day more structured. Recovery allows you to reset. Good time management helps to set up a balance between boredom and burnout. The goal is to keep you motivated without becoming overwhelmed.
What Is Some Practical Advice for Recovery Time Management?
Whether you are going through rehab in a treatment center or maintaining sobriety at home afterward, it is important to make plans for each day. Time management skills are key to relapse prevention. Daily planning will gradually grow into daily habits. Then, habits will become a sustainable lifestyle. Daily planning gives you a sense of ownership of time and also some accountability for yourself.
Begin a day with a relaxation exercise to connect with yourself. Take ten to fifteen minutes in the morning and practice some mindful breathing techniques. Or you can use this time to journal. Be diligent in keeping your personal hygiene, and never skip these self-care tasks.
After breakfast, sit down and make a to-do list, but limit it to three to five tasks. The goal is to build enough structure into your routine so that you do not slip into boredom. Then prioritize these tasks so that you always finish the most important ones first. Lastly, set up a reward system for when you finish these tasks. You can try simple things like putting a smiley face sticker on the calendar or reward yourself with snacks.
Each day, try to reserve thirty minutes for exercise or walking outside. You can do this in the morning or in the evening. Make phone calls to friends with who you like to share and laugh. Join some neighborhood activities that are creative and fun. You can also use some free time to learn new hobbies, such as playing an instrument, painting, or photography. Things that allow you to focus and relax are good choices. Another important self-care component is not allowing yourself to be sleep-deprived. If you have sleep problems at night, reserve enough time during the day to rest, like an early afternoon nap.
Are you or a loved one in early recovery facing time management issues? Does too much free time bring stress or boredom? Do you worry that this freedom might increase the risk of relapse? You are right to have these concerns. Understanding the changing rhythms of your life after treatment may be challenging for you. If you or your loved one needs support, maybe it is time to consider working with a professional interventionist who knows how to coach you through this process. At South Florida Intervention, we understand the challenges of entering treatment. Our staff strives to help you prepare for what is to come during treatment and recovery. We provide clients with tailor-made recovery coaching and case management. Our intervention strategies also include sober escort and parent coaching. Call us at (202) 390-2273 and our experienced staff can help answer your questions and design a treatment plan for you today.