Most non-addicted people have routines and organizing structures in
their lives that help provide stability. An addict's lifestyle is often one of chaotic instability and disorganization. A general lack of structure and routine
contributes to this disorganization and chaos. An addicted lifestyle is often missing daily routines of fulfilling personal and family responsibilities, engaging in predictable and consistent eating and sleeping habits, and appropriate self care. These missing elements are self-reinforcing in addiction. Their absence increases probability of continued use and continued use of the chemical increases the probability of the absence of these internal and external structures.

Many people go to inpatient treatment at the beginning of their recovery journey. Although there are many benefits of inpatient treatment, an important benefit that is often underrated, is one of structure and organization. With its regimented wake-up time, scheduled meal times, and mandatory participation in daily treatment schedules, the treatment program provides the needed structure and organization. Once the newly sober addict leaves treatment, s/he must re-create a similar level of structure and organization for his/her own daily life.

Having your time closely scheduled helps to reduce the obsessive thoughts about drinking/using. It is also difficult to become bored while tightly scheduled in highly engaging activities. Boredom is correlated with thoughts about drinking/using. While in active addiction, the addict's life becomes prioritized by drug seeking, the actual use of the drug, and then getting over the use of
the drug. Suddenly faced with the absence of these drug-centered behaviors, the newly recovering person can struggle to try to figure out how to replace those old lifestyle behaviors with new, recovery enhancing behavior.

A change in lifestyle and routine is necessary to develop a lifestyle that encourages and nurtures recovery instead of addiction. This often involves a complete change and restructuring of time, activities, and attention.

A recovery lifestyle can be developed more easily by using a day planner, appointment book, or other similar tools to build a daily schedule of recovery enhancing activities. This schedule should include counseling and sponsor
appointments, planned personal and family events like parent/teacher conferences, "date night", lunch with the girls, etc. Self-care activities, such as daily physical exercise, meditation time, and personal relaxation routines, should also be scheduled in.

A highly structured daily routine can be very helpful for preventing relapse in early recovery. By reducing excessive free time, a person's mind is not as free to wander. This occupied thinking and behavior helps to eliminate cravings and
triggers. It can also reduce the opportunity to dwell on negative thoughts about self, others, and the world that feeds depression and anxiety.

Keeping a daily schedule also helps with prioritizing tasks and activities that recovering people are called upon to participate in. Sometimes people in recovery feel as if they are pulled in too many directions and are scheduled too tightly. In this case, a schedule that is too densely scheduled, serves to increase rather than decrease their stress. A schedule that is too densely committed, may serve
as an indicator of the need to learn and practice assertiveness. It is important to learn to set and maintain appropriate boundaries in early recovery.

Learning to say "no" to a request for your time, can be difficult, but with practice, can build or reinforce positive self esteem and self-confidence. Knowing that you are engaged in too many activities can also help you to
improve your ability to prioritize. Without this ability, it is easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed, thereby increasing your stress.

Increased stress, whether from too much or too little structure can increase the probability of relapse if it is not appropriately managed. Balance is a skill not easily acquired in early recovery. Yet, people in early recovery must learn to effectively manage all the daily living tasks and recovery tasks that they have to do. Structure helps with managing all those diverse tasks.

Author's Bio: 

The website of Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D., has a number of resources available for those seeking recovery from addictions, Ebooks on
preventing relapse are also available for purchase and download at Peggy L. Ferguson, Ph.D., LADC, LMFT is a private practice marriage/family therapist and alcohol/drug counselor in Stillwater OK, and a writer, consultant, and trainer.