Like a hungry monster growing ever bigger, addiction has a way of consuming everything you care about until, sooner or later—there’s nothing left but a desire to use more. While some people realize what’s happening and get help early, most of us don’t wake up to what is happening until we’re totally at the mercy of the addiction. By this time, everything else is going or long gone.
Once you make the decision to get help, the path to rebuilding your life can be a slow process. You need to commit to changing everything in your life that fed the monster of addiction, so that your life is now filled with a new, healthier focus, new habits, and friends and associates that support your recovery and healing. While this may sound hard, it’s actually easier than you think.
A Good Start is Changing the Way You Take Care of Yourself
You need to eat healthy, nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get good sleep. Think of it as making a living amends to your body for years of abuse. Your body has worked hard to keep going despite the poison you’ve been ingesting and other unhealthy habits most addicts share. You can become your body’s friend by eating nutritious food at regular intervals, taking vitamin supplements, and getting plenty of good exercise.
If you can develop a new, fun hobby such as surfing, hiking, or cycling, you’ll be having fun while giving your body the exercise it needs. These are all activities you can enjoy with others who are recovering or just into a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that exercise relieves stress, raises endorphin levels to help you feel good, and helps you to get restful sleep.
Find a New Set of Friends Who Are Into Recovery and Healthy Living
‘We are known by the company we keep’ is an old saying that has a lot of truth. This is because people who spend time together tend to have a profound influence on each other, whether healthy or unhealthy.
You’ll meet new people by attending 12-step meetings and seeking out healthy activities that people enjoy together, such as cooking, yoga and sports. You can take a class to learn a new skill or hone one you had before addiction took over your life.
Practicing Gratitude and Helping Others
These two activities, finding things to be grateful for and actively being of service to others are perhaps the surest path to mental health. Everybody has challenges and trouble. By helping others we can both forget our own troubles and learn to value ourselves again. By being grateful for what we have, we learn to see life in a more balanced perspective.
An example of doing both at one time is, for instance, you have a negative thought such as, “Oh, man, are we having [fill in the blank] again for dinner? I’m sick of this food!” And then you catch yourself. You remember to be grateful that you have food to eat, period. If you don’t like what’s on the menu, maybe you can go get something out, and buy a meal for that person standing on the street with a sign while you’re at it.
As you continue to grow into healthier habits and a changed lifestyle, don’t beat yourself up if you go backwards occasionally. It’s all part of the process. Just do the best you can, a day at a time. Before you know it yourself, people will start telling you how much better you seem to be. You won’t notice it like those around you do because you won’t be focused on yourself so much anymore.
About the Author: Mike Williams is a San Diego native who participates in recovery at By the Sea sober living in San Diego and has written about the field of behavioral health for over 15 years.
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