Perhaps you’ve stepped down from a higher level of treatment. Or you’re attending to responsibilities at home, work, or school. You have a lot of freedom; a good deal of autonomy. And you should have it. Outpatient treatment programs allow for that. Your environment and routine are open. You have authority over your own time. You’re only obligated to meet with a therapist or counselor once a week. That’s 7 days. 168 hours. A lot can happen in that time frame. If you stop and think about it too long, it can feel like a lot of pressure. Struggling with addiction and/or mental illness is no easy task. Remember that recovery is never done. It’s a lifestyle. When you’re counting the days between therapy sessions, how can you proactively practice recovery?
1) Practice Mindfulness
“Mindfulness.” You hear that word a lot lately. It gets used a lot in therapy and self-help circles. You’ve likely heard it yourself. If not in treatment, then in your personal life. It’s one of those words that gets tossed around so much that it might’ve lost its meaning. Mindfulness is simply being aware of what’s happening. Observing what’s really going on with you. Getting away from pretense, distraction, and business. Making time to really pay close attention to yourself. How can this help you? Where your mind goes, your body follows. If your mind confronts stress, your body responds in kind. One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to anchor your mind to your body. If you’re stressed or overwhelmed, look around. Listen to the sounds that surround you. Smell the aromas. Eat slowly, really tasting your food. These are just a few ways to practice mindfulness. Practice! Mindfulness is a skill. It takes practice!
2) Rethink Control
Aftercare options like Celebrate Recovery make use of the “Serenity Prayer.” If that’s not quite your preference, think of it like this: You can control some things, but not all things. You may read that and think, “Well, of course!” But pause a moment. It isn’t such an easy thing to tell the difference between what you control and what you don’t. What can we control, really? We can control what and how we think. We cannot control other people, but we can decide how we will deal with them. We cannot control tragedies, but we can decide to prepare for them in advance. Rethink what you control and what you don’t. Doing so opens up space in your mind. Now, you can focus on the most crucial parts of your life. And forget all the rest.
3) Create A Schedule
Your therapy session will only occupy 1 hour of your week. And your next one is an entire 168 hours away! To recover from addiction and keep mentally fit, you need a schedule. It needn’t be complicated; there’s no need to buy a planner and budget your day down to the second. You might be an early riser, up at the crack of dawn. On the other hand, you might be a graveyard shifter. There’s no such thing as a perfect schedule. Your schedule must be consistent. It must be tailored properly to your life, so that you know what you are doing and when you are doing it.
Everything discussed above gives you continuity with everything you learned in therapy. You learned new skills that must be repeated. Therapy, no matter how intensive, isn’t your life. You must adapt what you learned in therapy to fit your life. Spend time with people who encourage your recovery. Consume media that aid in your recovery journey. Eat well, move, exercise. Try art, writing, or music. This is how you recover between sessions. This is how you thrive.