Here is a fact: Recovery is not easy.

We really wish we could tell you that staying sober is a cinch. But the truth of the matter is that a person in recovery from a substance use disorder will face difficulties of various kinds as they try to stay sober. Some of those difficulties might even lead to a relapse—a crisis best addressed by a return to treatment and another attempt to maintain sobriety over time.

But the fact that staying sober is not easy does not mean it is impossible—especially if you give yourself a fighting chance by focusing on the fundamentals.

“Focus on the fundamentals” is a phrase that usually pops up in the context of sports. A team or a player who is struggling will try to turn things around by getting down to basics. If you keep your fundamental skills sharp, the rest will follow. 

But you can also focus on the fundamentals in recovery. In this blog entry we will focus on three (not the only three, to be sure) fundamentals that provide a firmer foundation for your ongoing sobriety. Those three fundamentals are eating right, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly.

Each of these behaviors supports your overall well-being—both your physical and your mental health. In turn, good physical and mental health underpins your sobriety. Let’s look at each fundamental in turn.

Eating Right is on the Menu

Making good nutritional choices can really help you achieve your recovery goals. When you choose colorful fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates, you are doing your body and your mind—and by extension, your sobriety—a favor.

Limiting your sugar, caffeine, and processed food intake is also important. Sugar can be problematic for a person in recovery because a so-called “sugar high” can mimic a drug high and inspire cravings for drugs or alcohol. Caffeine can be an issue because it can impact the quality of a person’s sleep. It can also cause jitters that mimic anxiety. And processed foods tend to have significantly less nutritional value than other choices. 

We’re not suggesting you have to pursue some perfect diet (and we’re certainly not suggesting you pursue some fad diet), but we are suggesting that each positive food choice you make works to your advantage as you seek to stay sober.

Sleeping Soundly Sounds Awfully Good

Many people toss and turn at night for one reason or another. Maybe they have a lot of worries about work or family life. Maybe they have a tendency to replay negative moments in their life—maybe even negative moments from long ago—once they pull up the covers and turn down the lights. Or maybe they have a partner who snores (or perhaps their own snoring disrupts the quality of their sleep).

Whatever the reason, bad sleep leads to bad consequences and could put your sobriety at risk. While some sleep issues (like snoring, which might be a sign of sleep apnea) require medical attention, many people who struggle to get the rest they need could benefit from remembering their childhood sleep routine.

A relaxing and repeatable set of evening routines that lead up to bedtime—and sticking to a regular bedtime—is a great start. Keeping your sleeping space uncluttered, cool, and dark also helps. And some people find that white noise or sleep stories or quiet music supports their efforts to get the rest they need. And getting that rest can help sustain your recovery.

Exercise Doesn’t Have to Mean Exhaustion

Some folks have a hard time adding exercise into their daily routine. One reason for that might be that we tend to think of exercise in terms of two extremes—none and intense. But there are so many options in between the two, and any one of those options that involves more exercise than none is a good one.

Add a 10-minute walk to your lunch hour. Get out in your garden a bit more. Go bowling. Work your way toward more intense activities—or don’t. The key is to get yourself moving, and to keep moving consistently. Doing so is good for your body, your brain, and your sobriety.

The Most Fundamental Fundamental is Getting Sober

No matter how great our recovery advice might be, none of it is useful until you reclaim your sobriety. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, The Aviary Recovery Center, near St. Louis, MO, can help you get—and stay—sober by providing medically supervised detoxification, a rehabilitation program that includes treatment of co-occurring mental health disorders, and a continuum of care that provides ongoing support. If you are ready to make a fundamental change in your life, we are ready to support you each step of the way.