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Addiction Recovery: 7 Healthy Actions to Practice

With healthy attitudes, a person can begin to take healthy actions.

With healthy attitudes, a person can begin to take healthy actions. These are actions I’ve found to be practical and beneficial. Some are emotional actions, several are relational actions, and others are physical actions. I am confident that, as you look over my suggestions, you’ll think of others specific to you, your situation, and your recovery. This isn’t a list to memorize; it’s a list to model.

  1. I practice forgiveness. No revelation here—you will mess up. When you stumble, and you will at some point and some way, forgiveness helps you get back on your feet and moving in the right direction. Forgiveness is a reset because it acknowledges that wrong was done. If nothing was wrong, there would be nothing to forgive. You may also have trouble forgiving others. This is what I call a grading-on-a-curve mentality, which says because you’ve messed up, you’ve earned a low life grade. The only way to get that grade up is to lower everyone else’s grade, depressing the “curve.” In recovery, some may turn to harsh and rigid judgments against others to elevate self.
  2. I practice honesty. The definition of honesty is being truthful and free of deceit. These characteristics are the antithesis of addiction. Don’t be surprised if your honesty is rusty and you must work at being totally honest, because honesty is an all-or-nothing proposition. A half-truth is, by definition, dishonest and deceitful. In recovery, honesty takes practice, practice, practice. Practicing honesty may require you to retrain your brain and create new, truthful muscle memory. Before passing judgment on yourself or others, you may need to stop and ask yourself, “What is true?” The next steps you take must start from an honest orientation for you to continue in the right direction.
  3. I practice openness. Being honest with yourself is good but not enough; being honest with others is called openness. Open is the opposite of closed. Connected is the opposite of isolated. To be connected, you need to be open. Addiction wants you open and connected to one thing only. Addiction becomes your companion, your intimate partner, pushing out anyone and anything else. In recovery, addiction, with its feelings of shame and remorse, can argue that being open is a bad idea for you, saying, “If people knew the truth, they’d reject you.” Being open means being truthful, perhaps most of all, about your own weaknesses and failings. Addiction promises to hide those weaknesses and failings but can’t because everyone has them. True openness, then, relies on humility and a recognition that you can and will fail.
  4. I eat and drink for nutrition. I didn’t use the word practice here, but the concept still applies because eating and drinking for health and nutrition is not always second nature.[1] Depending on the addiction, healthy eating and drinking can require even more practice, and by practice, I mean intentionality. Addiction is hard on the body. Intentional nutritional support is, therefore, needed to help the body heal. At The Center, we utilize the expertise of naturopathic and nutritional professionals to assist those in recovery to design healthy eating and drinking patterns, including the use of specifically designed supplementation for recovery. In conjunction, mental health professionals help educate those in recovery about the emotional and psychological effects of addiction on eating and drinking attitudes and actions.
  5. I move for health. Addiction creates stress, which creates toxins, which contribute to physical illness. Exercise, however, has been shown to be beneficial in stress reduction, detoxification, and increased physical well-being. Those in recovery have multiple reasons to incorporate healthy movement or exercise into their daily routines. Recovery works best when healthy habits replace addictive behaviors. Another benefit I’ve seen from regular exercise is the routine. When an addiction is absent, there can be time to fill. I’ve heard some in recovery complain that they “don’t have time” to begin an exercise program, to which I shake my head and remind them how much time they previously devoted to their addiction! Surely, I say, you can take some of that freed-up time and get out and walk, swim, ride a bike, dance in your skivvies in the living room, go to the gym, engage in a favorite sport, garden, you fill in the blank.
  6. I sleep for health. You just read that exercise promotes better sleep. Early in my schooling, while working as a sleep research associate, I learned how vital sleep is as a physically and psychologically dynamic activity. The body repairs itself during sleep. The mind reorders and resorts itself while turned “off.” The Mayo Clinic calls sleep “the foundation for healthy habits.” Sleep improves mood and temperament; combats serious health conditions; contributes to healthy hormonal release; allows for important REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which affects memory and mental focus; reduces body aches and pains; improves immune function; and increases work performance.[2] Sleep is restorative in general and especially so during recovery. Addiction is disruptive to the sleep cycle. Just ask any person in recovery to explain how their sleep changed during their addiction. They will say they slept longer but felt less rested. They will talk about days they were so high they went without sleep, only to crash or black out for extended periods of time. Sleep is an important component to recovery and should not be relegated to the back burner or shunted to the sideline until you “get around to it.”
  7. I relax for health. Addiction is awash in stress and anxiety; it thrives in red-alert crisis mode. Many people I’ve worked with in recovery have cited an especially stressful circumstance as their relapse trigger. This isn’t surprising, as stress is also given as a reason to start down a path of addiction in the first place. Stress, then, is an open door to relapse. Relaxation, of course, involves more than stillness. It’s possible to relax and be very active. Yet I think the heart of relaxation comes when we cease to worry, fret, and strive. Our muscles loosen, our thoughts unwind, we enter a place of stillness where we intentionally refrain from physical and emotional movement. I dare to venture that, through this level of relaxation, people reach the very place they were looking for through their addiction.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE
and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years
ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities
for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center •
A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington,
creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health
issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and
others.

[1] Julie Beck, “Less Than 3 Percent of Americans Live a ‘Healthy Lifestyle,’” Atlantic, March 23, 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/03 /less-than-3-percent-of -americans-live-a-healthy-lif estyle/475065/.

[2] Stacey M. Peterson and Brooke L. Werneburg, “Sleep: The Foundation for Healthy Habits,” Mayo Clinic, accessed December 20, 2017, http://www.mayo clinic.org/healthy-lif estyle/adult-health/in-depth/sleep-the-f oundation-f or -healthy-habits/art-20270117.

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