Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are designed to create time for one’s own life in addition to the multiple weekly meetings for treatment. However, that doesn’t mean treatment has a clear start and end time each day. Recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol is an ongoing, fluid endeavor. Whatever someone chooses to do with their time outside of meetings is up to them, but maintaining a schedule and adhering to it is important.
This time can be used for self-meditation or self-care, exploring new hobbies or delving deeper into established ones, or spending time with family and loved ones. While some people may find more fulfillment in certain areas over others, each is essential in its own way and offers certain advantages. Even if one category is less effective than another, do not ignore it entirely. Doing so can affect one’s ability to practice necessary life skills when going through the recovery process.
Creating and Maintaining a Schedule
Before exploring the benefits that each aspect brings, it is important to understand the role that a schedule plays in the process. Creating a schedule from the start provides a sense of structure. Not only does it allow one to visualize how their days look ahead of time – mitigating surprises and thus as many triggers as possible – it’s also easier to make adjustments as one sees what is working and what isn’t working. Making necessary adjustments is completely fine, as long as once the day has begun, the schedule is adhered to as best as possible. However, that doesn’t mean that someone has to fill every minute with something life-changing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – downtime can be just what someone needs in difficult times.
Finding an IOP Time That Works
When scheduling out one’s day, the highest priority is still attendance and support of whatever IOP the person is part of. However, that doesn’t mean there are no options. When looking for an IOP, inquire about their different schedules. Some are offered during the day to keep nights free, while others offer night programs that take place after work to avoid interfering with professional life. Facilities often run both options to ensure that someone always has the ability to attend. Each person can decide which time is better for them in their own lives – but once decided, it is important to stay with the same group. People will learn about each other and grow together in an effective group setting, and seeing success all the way through with those same people is an empowering feeling. Mold one’s schedule to fit the time that works best, and then make micro-adjustments to ensure that time will still be available.
Downtime and Self-Care
Self-care is something that is paramount in recovery, but also sometimes overlooked in favor of something more “direct.” However, recovery is exhausting. Dealing with triggers and confronting one’s own vulnerabilities on a constant basis is exhausting. Having a dedicated few hours to watch a movie or play a video game to recharge one’s own mind is critical. Spending every minute of every day in active therapy can lead to a watered-down result for each activity. Scheduling in some downtime gives one the opportunity to continue thinking about and internalizing the lessons and changes in their lives by encouraging them to relax.
Living a life outside of drugs and alcohol often opens up more free time than someone would expect. With less time spent at the bar, recovering from a hangover, or waiting to come down from a high, that time can be spent on something else. It is important to find something else to be passionate about – something they can sink their mind and body into in a healthy way rather than a detrimental one. Hobbies will differ from person to person, but allocating ample time for a new hobby is important. When a new hobby is found, don’t be afraid to pursue it to its full extent.
The family is an inevitable part of the recovery process, especially when attending an IOP. Therefore, it is important to dedicate some time to address the family members who are involved during this time. For some, this can mean trying new things as a group to build a stronger rapport, while for others it can be time scheduled to talk over dinner to establish a baseline of trust and boundaries. Either way, the family will play a pivotal role in recovery and addressing them as such needs dedicated time.
While each of these aspects will likely take up a significant amount of time, they each need to be addressed. Just as recovery is a fluid path, so is the schedule that one develops for themselves. It will change over time as hobbies become more complex, or deeper relationships with loved ones develop. But that is a sign of change, which is part of the goal of recovery as a whole. There will be more things to juggle as professional lives set in and sleep schedules adjust to make time for any new obligations. But keep an eye on the essentials here – which are the people directly involved in the recovery process, and the personal journeys being taken to create a more positive outlook for the future.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and you’re ready to address the changes that you are capable of making, Lighthouse Recovery is here to guide you down the path. Balancing your life in recovery can be difficult, but the caring staff at Lighthouse and the strong community of acceptance and support built here each day can help you decide a new direction for your life in sobriety.