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10 Life Skills Essential To Recovery

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Addiction tears lives apart. When people in recovery start to glue the pieces back together after addiction, they need help with everyday tasks that others often take for granted. Learning how to move about in the world without drugs and alcohol is a challenge for people in recovery, so the life strategies and coping skills they learn while they’re in treatment must last them long after they leave the facility.

Rebuilding life after addiction involves acquiring and using tools that create a “new normal” that is light years away from what they used to do. Here are 10 essential life skills that help recovering substance abusers and addicts regain control over their personal world after they leave treatment.


People in recovery must learn how to establish a daily routine early in their recovery. Doing so means the difference between staying away from drugs and using them again. Completing certain scheduled tasks each day provides structure and familiarity that is needed to keep going. Elizabeth Larkin of The Spruce explains in her article, “How to Get More Done With a Personalized Daily Routine,” that having a daily routine takes the decision-making out of the process, makes actions automatic, and saves time. Keep the routine as simple as possible, and don’t forget to make plans for 12-step meetings, therapy sessions, and other essential meetings geared toward recovery.

Action plan

Before you can create a daily routine, think about what you need to get done in the day. Consider your job, school, your kids’ school, or just errands that need to be checked off so you can move on to the next one. Once you figure those out, develop a schedule that optimizes the best times of day for you; devote that time to getting what you need to get done. Make time to review the goals you have for the day and be sure to cross them off when completed. Larkin offers solid advice on how to create a daily routine and outlines effective steps.


A great deal of time goes into using drugs and alcohol. So much so, that the user forgets to care for themselves in basic ways. Personal grooming and hygiene are often forgotten about. Now that the focus is on feeling well in life after addiction, more time should be spent on looking your best for you.

Action plan

Keeping up with life’s daily task can feel like a sprint. Slow down and take a warm shower to wake you up in the morning or help you relax you right before getting ready for bed at night. Make grooming your special, personal time for you to do what you need so you can present your best self to the world.


Running and maintaining a household is a challenge in general for most people. But people in recovery have to make an extra effort to make sure they can keep things in order at the place they call home. That includes taking out the trash, doing the laundry, keeping rooms clean, and other chores. Don’t forget to set reminders for when bills are due to ensure services are paid.

Action plan

Make lists to keep up with the daily and weekly chores. Don’t forget things like stocking the refrigerator with groceries, taking out the trash and recycling, and other things that make life easier. If living with others, such as roommates, a spouse, or a significant other, enlist their help and assign them chores to so everyone can share the load. Also set reminders of when bills are due either on your phone or computer, or use good old-fashioned paper to write them down.


People from all walks of life can use some advice on moving into stable territory with their finances. Those in recovery have to relearn how to handle money responsibly after using it for other things that supported their addiction. Money that used to be spent on buying drugs must now go to paying rent, utilities, groceries, and other bills. It is also important to put surplus income toward goals that support a healthy lifestyle and priorities. Having good spending habits can help build confidence, achieve personal goals, and make amends that include repaying debts.

Action plan

Managing money is a skill that can improve over time. Find community course and workshops that teach basic concepts of budgeting and saving. A nonprofit credit counseling service can also teach you financial basics as well.

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Using addictive substances regularly harms the body and robs it of the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Eating right ensures organs and tissues work properly. Make sure to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and lean proteins. “Without good nutrition, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and poor performance,” writes Healthline. Post-addiction eating is also about fully recovering mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

Action plan

A nutritionist or registered dietitian can help jump-start plans to improve and maintain your diet. Consider the times of day you are hungriest so you can strategize how to navigate cravings, which may include diverting your attention away from food by doing other activities, such as exercising. Also, consider your usual go-to trigger foods and come up with healthier substitutes that can ease your mind and please your taste buds. Check out Healthline’s beginner’s guide to healthy eating and its list of 50 super-healthy foods.


Earning a steady paycheck is a good first step to taking care of one’s financial well-being. There are many career resources out there, so you have to take some time to think about what you want and need, and what arrangement works best for your situation. You can pursue volunteer or work full-time or part-time or complete an internship. You can also use employment services that help you prepare for, find, and keep a job. They may offer career coaching, including how to dress for the workplace, how to interview, and other guidance to ensure employment success.

Action plan

You can check out online websites (such as this one) that offer insight into the careers your skills are best suited for. Talk with a career counselor who can match you with compatible employment opportunities. Check in with friends, family, and other people you know to see if they have any job leads or know someone who does. Also, consider asking around in the addiction recovery community. Treatment centers, alumni groups, case managers, and others may be able to lead you to the right employment opportunities.


Establish a routine sleep schedule. Sleep repairs the body’s cells. Getting a good night’s rest can help you feel better, more alert, and protect you from getting sick.

Action plan

Perform a nightly routine that puts you in the mood to relax and drift off to sleep. Take a soothing warm bath or drink a calming tea like lavender or chamomile (or both) as you get ready for bed. Listen to relaxing music or dim the lights low so you can set the mood for rest and relaxation. Stay away from anything that keeps you up, including caffeine, rigorous workouts right before bed.


We live in stressful times, but we must keep stressful emotions in check, too. Stress can lead to a breakdown in the body and make one more vulnerable to getting sick. Recognizing stress as a trigger is a critical skill for people in addiction recovery. It can stir up memories of active addiction and lead to a relapse that jeopardizes the post-addiction progress that has been made.

Action plan

There are many ways to keep stress at bay or at least in control. If you’re feeling stressed, take a breather and go for a walk or run, listen to a favorite song, or watch a funny video. Check in to see if you’re feeling the relapse triggers identified in the acronym HALT—hungry, anger, loneliness, and tiredness. If it’s hunger you feel, grab a delicious, healthy snack. If you’re angry, consider taking up meditation or some other activity that promotes calm. If lonely, consider calling a friend or relative who’s a good listener and can help get you back on the right track. If tired, a nap can restore some peace. Check in with yourself to gauge what you need to do to alleviate stress and stressful situations.


An essential life skill that helps a person in recovery is saying what is meant and meaning what is said. Clear communication skills are important to building and maintaining quality relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers. Keeping the lines open for meaningful exchanges can also help the person in recovery maintain healthy boundaries and managing their emotions.

Action plan

To ensure you are clear when you speak with others, be sure to think about what you express. Take some time to make sure you are saying what you mean. Choose your words carefully and monitor the tone and pitch of your voice when speaking. Be polite and open to understanding another’s point of view. Listen carefully to what is being said and ask clarifying questions to ensure you understand what is being said. Also, be assertive. No one is a mind reader, and only you can state your position and how you feel. Honesty helps relationships improve and grow stronger.


People who are new in recovery may find that they have to start over with new friends. That’s not as easy as it sounds. However, it’s necessary to associate with people who share the same goals and can support a new life of sobriety. These are the people who will encourage you to move forward on that journey. Life after recovery means that you will have to decide who will be in your life and who will not. Hanging out with people who enabled you when you used is no longer be an option. Making these changes will be painful in some cases, but focus on the positive outcome you want.

Action plan

Consider joining a 12-step fellowship program. You will meet like-minded people there who want the same things you want. Find sober events to attend with people whose recovery goals are similar to yours. Partner up with an Accountability Buddy who will help you stay on the straight and narrow and committed to your recovery. This person is can also check in with you to see how you’re doing emotionally and help you work on any blind spots you have.


Everyone can use a helping hand sometimes, and people in recovery who are rebuilding their lives after addiction are no exception. It is essential that they learn the life skills needed to guide them to a successful recovery. If you or someone you know needs addiction treatment or support while in recovery, call Pathway to Hope’s 24-hour hotline at (866) 298-2348 or contact us online. Our call representatives can help you find treatment programs that fit your needs. We will guide you every step of the way both in and out of treatment and help you rebuild your life after addiction.


Elysia Richardson

Elysia L. Richardson is a writer and editor at Delphi Behavioral Health Group.

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