Ritual and Routine: “Two Rs” in Recovery
Back in the day, there was a popular little ditty about the “three Rs” of education: reading, ’riting, and ’rithmatic. You would be forgiven if you found it odd that a song about school goes out of its way to misspell “writing” and “arithmetic.” But it was a quick, catchy way to talk (or sing) about the foundational subjects in school.
When it comes to recovery, we might think of “two Rs”—and no misspelling is required. Let’s talk about routine and ritual in recovery. Both can bolster your recovery efforts.
Set Up a Routine for Recovery Success
We like the word “routine” better than the word “habit,” because of the latter’s connection to ideas like “drug habit” or “drinking habit.” The notion of a routine has a more positive connotation—and that’s entirely appropriate because a routine truly can have a positive impact on your recovery efforts.
When we develop routines, we take active control of many aspects of our life. For example, we might develop a before-going-to-bed routine—maybe a cup of herbal tea, a warm bath, 30 minutes spent reading something pleasant, and some gentle music to carry you off to sleep—that helps us get the amount and quality of sleep we need. We might develop an exercise routine—weights twice a week, aerobic exercise three times a week, and pick-up basketball on the weekend—to help us stay motivated and to track our progress. We might develop a daily eating routine to minimize our consumption of empty calories and to maximize the amount of healthy food we take in.
Each of these examples—routines for sleeping, exercising, and eating—can have wonderful benefits for your recovery. Good practices in all three areas can improve your physical and mental health, which in turn can help you fend off cravings and protect you from relapse.
Routines take some of the guesswork and randomness out of the day, making it less likely we will make poor choices on the spur of the moment. For example, you are much less likely to pull into that drive-thru for French fries if your meal routine is established and you avoid the need to snack at random intervals. Sticking to the routine eventually becomes second nature—and the folks at the fast food place will see you far less often.
Your Personal Rituals Can Provide Recovery Support
It is possible that when you hear the word “ritual” your mind immediately jumps to religious rituals. You might think of communion (a Christian ritual), the Passover Seder (a Jewish ritual), or the prayers known as salat (an Islamic ritual). But rituals don’t have to have religious content. What they do have to have, however, is personal meaning for you.
So what might be some examples of personal rituals? Keeping a recovery journal might be a place to start. Setting aside even 10 minutes each day to write can be a helpful ritual. It doesn’t really matter what sort of writing you do, but you might find it helpful, for example, to reflect on what has happened during the day that has been a challenge to your recovery and what has happened that has been a support to your sobriety. This intentional reflection can help you identify and avoid triggers. Equally importantly, it can help you process your emotions in healthy ways.
A journal is one of many artistic options that can serve as a recovery ritual. Any creative practice—painting, drawing, sculpting, dancing, writing, and so many more—can provide a space for processing emotion and for creation that stands in sharp contrast to the destruction your substance use disorder may have caused in your life. The process of creation can be extremely satisfying and healing.
Another possibility could find you developing a ritual around building and sustaining relationships. Perhaps each Saturday afternoon, you set aside an hour and call someone who is important to you just to catch up. No agenda, no need to force the conversation in any particular direction, and no need to talk about your recovery. You can just make connecting with others a ritual that can bring relaxation, friendship, and joy to you—and to the person you are talking with.
Yoga, mindfulness practice, even gardening—almost anything can be a helpful ritual if you infuse it with meaning and use it as an intentional way to support your recovery and overall well-being.
And we should be clear: if religious rituals are part of your life, they, too, can support your recovery by helping you focus on something outside yourself while also providing a framework of meaning for your life.
We Can Add a Third (and First) R: Rehabilitation
Before you can take advantage of routine and ritual to support your recovery, you need one more R. The process of rehabilitation is essential for establishing a foundation for a successful, long-term recovery. At The Aviary Recovery Center, we have the expertise, compassion, and commitment to personalized treatment to help you establish that foundation. Using evidence-based techniques and strategies, we will help you overcome your substance use disorder—and any co-occurring mental health disorders that may accompany and/or contribute to it. Rehabilitation, routine, and ritual can make a real difference in your life. We are ready to help you get started.