Ease the Stress of Early Recovery

Learn simple strategies to ease stress while recovering from an addiction. Not only will these reduce the likelihood of relapse, but they will also help promote a clean, sober lifestyle.

After many years of struggling through recovery from multiple addictions, Bob is trying again to quit smoking. With the support of counseling, psychiatric care, 12-step programs, hospital inpatient and outpatient programs, spiritual direction, and loads of self-help books, Bob slowly achieved sobriety from alcohol and cannabis. He also stopped binge eating and lost nearly 100 pounds. His intense process addictions to video poker and online shopping (developed in the early stages of recovery from alcohol and cannabis addiction) have abated. Now he faces his final addiction frontier – cigarettes . . . 2 packs of unfiltered cigarettes per day.

Bob’s previous efforts to quit smoking include nicotine patches, nicotine gum, vapes, hypnosis, smokers anonymous, and two antidepressants, which aid with smoking cessation. However, none of these methods helped him to ease his stress so readily quieted by a drag from a cigarette. His most successful attempts at quitting smoking were during brief hospital stays. Of course, his first stop on the way home was the convenience store that sells his favorite brand of cigarettes.

Today (July 18, 2019) marks Bob’s seventh day of abstinence from cigarettes, and his anxiety soars through the roof. Borrowing heavily from techniques that helped him overcome his previous temptations, he manages his stress and cravings better. Here are a few of his tips to ease stress during the first weeks of recovery from addiction, many he learned from his favorite animal, the dolphin.


Indulge your inner child with favorite toys from your youth. Since Bob struggled with shopping addiction, he asked his family members to give him birthday and holiday gifts from a list of his favorite toys. In addition to playing board games and non-gambling card games with his wife, he frequently got on the floor and played catch with his beloved dog.


Pursue creative activities such as drawing, photography, scrapbooking, music, crafts, or writing. Bob found that drawing quieted his mind. Although he isn’t quite a Monet, he did take a drawing course from a local community college and improve his sketching skills. He also honed his writing skills and started taking guitar lessons.


Although dolphins have a natural smile, please make an effort to smile, especially when you don’t feel like it. Bob observed that offering a simple smile to others often helped brighten their day. He eventually realized that a simple smile and a few thoughts of gratitude (thankful for my smile, access to a car, nourishing food) also eased his stress and improved his mood.


Tell someone (your sponsor, a trusted friend, a helper) about your struggles. Having grown up in an alcoholic family, Bob followed the ACOA traditions of “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t’ Feel” outlined by Claudia Black. After bottling up feelings of anger, sadness, guilt and even joy had been bottled for years, Bob found it difficult to share his inner self. However, he persisted, and his efforts paid off.


Go for a five-minute walk or try a five-minute chair exercise routine. During Bob’s early recovery from alcohol and cannabis, he walked every time he felt a craving coming on. He walked so much during his first year of abstinence that he lost over 50 pounds.


Engage your mind in new information. Bob resumed a favorite hobby of reading. First, he started with mystery novels but later broadened his repertoire to classic literature, historical biographies, and philosophy.


Eat plenty of healthy foods which promote a healthy gut. Not only will this help your digestion and bodily functions, but it will also enhance your mood. After a few lapses in his recovery journey, Bob noticed that excessive sugar intake often triggered a craving. So, he gradually cut down his white flour and sugar consumption and started eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

After following these simple tips, some inspired by his dolphin friends, Bob overcame many difficult addictions. He now has tools to help him conquer his final addiction – smoking.

The story was permitted with permission.

Image is under license from Shutterstock.com

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