Structure in Recovery by Joy Anderson

STRUCTURE – There’s simplified plan that is frequently introduced in the drug and alcohol treatment environment –  the blanket structure of simple order is implemented and seems to work pretty well for most people.  Speaking from experience – very  simple, very easy was a fantastic combo and I was blessed to have the latitude to take advantage of it at the time.  Life can be fast and hard – get a cute helmet and keep things simple and easy to manage as long as you can – you’ll thank yourself in the long run.  

Most modern treatment programs deliver a component that incorporates “life skills training” read: how to function in everyday life.  Things come up.  Life happens.  We work on aspects like emotional intelligence and maturity…and doing laundry and grocery shopping.  We re-learn quickly what we took for granted in our time using.  Don’t forget that when the average user picks up a drug or drink for the first time the emotional growth stops.  We wind up with a bunch of 12-15-year-olds walking around in 20-30 even 40-year-old bodies.  The results can be tragic and irreversible.  I prefer not to share the experience where I found myself the oldest one in treatment wishing I could somehow bestow my experience on the youngsters sparing them the years of misery I endured; the losses, the damaged relationships, the failures, the poor health.

    But we all have to face our own demons

                          in our own time –   Growth Happens.

With diligent work we can restructure our neural pathways and all that to create new ways – workarounds –  to seemingly insurmountable hurdles.  People who’ve had stroke or brain injuries do it all the time and re-learn how to walk, talk, write – whatever. Luckily, the vast majority of people reading this do not have to overcome such tragedy. Still, there’s a reason everybody say “Keep it Simple” in recovery. It’s not as easily done as said – people like us thrive on chaos and crisis don’t we?! And it’s a hard habit to break.  We don’t feel comfortable unless there’s some kind of calamity going on. Trust me, we learn to get past that too and what used to be “boredom”  becomes meditative bliss.  


Isn’t the true goal to live in the real world successfully (chemical free) and meet day-to-day challenges with confidence?  Hmm.  A lot of relative concepts there. Define “Real World”, Define “Successfully”  – against whose standards, whose playbook? Well, we get to decide and that’s precisely why we arrange things in our life to be hassle free, smooth as can be – got to avoid that chaos – that stress.  By keeping simple structure in place – easy to meet goals,  and manageable expectations we can ensure our success.


  • Start with an easy schedule with a lot of downtime.  Get up 2 hours before you have to be anywhere.  Incorporate all those things you were taught – prayer, meditation, reflection  – whatever you want to call it.
  • Eat!  You gotta eat!  I don’t care if I do sound like your mother – it takes nourishment to heal the brain and body.
  • GET OUT! Take a walk even if you don’t feel like it.  I’m sure that there were times when you really didn’t feel like getting up but you knew you had to “get well” or stop the shakes.  Same thing – just do it.
  • Talk to people!  There something to be said for meditation, quiet personal time and napping but avoid isolation at all costs!  Your head is a dangerous place right about now – you don’t want to get stuck in it.
  • If you are at  the point in your recovery where you are employable, get a “recovery job”.  That looks different for everyone but suffice it to say you don’t want to go out shooting for CEO your first day.  Ease yourself back into the workforce.  


Remember – we didn’t get this way overnight so “Easy Does It.” People around you are doing the same thing and more than likely having a lot of the same feelings, worries, challenges, triumphs, small victories and big achievements. Part of the structure is to stay in the middle – to keep from falling off the edges.  You’ll find that if you start to fall somebody will be there to catch you- or at least call you out.  It’s new for us to rely on  God, people, a routine…everything is new.  Simple structure will help us keep  our feet from being planted firmly in mid air to where they need  to be – on the ground following simple steps.