Life in Balance

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What is a Recovery Plan? by Jason Applebaum

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What is an addiction recovery plan and what does it look like?  An addiction recovery plan is a series of strategies designed to help a person overcome addictive behaviours and support healthier life choices.  Just like tools in a tool box, each strategy has its own unique features and purpose.

A recovery plan should encompass strategies and activities that are chosen and easily sustained by the individual.  It is important to note, what works for some does not work for all.  It is important for the individual to experience different strategies to better ascertain what works and what doesn’t.  Do not become focused on failure but rather learning about one’s self in the process is what is important.

Here is a list of tools that can be incorporated into any recovery plan and an explanation of how it can contribute to an overall wellness plan.  The list is in no particular order.

Recovery Plan:

1) 12-step group meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, etc.) – These group meetings allow individuals to meet people facing similar challenges and issues. Relationships formed in this type of group can create an early support network.  The critical importance of these meetings is to learn that you are not alone.

2)  1-1counselling (CAMH, CMHA, etc.) – Meeting with a counsellor can strengthen the ability   to process thoughts and feelings.  As the brain tends to be impaired from thought processes of addiction, counselling gives the opportunity to filter ideas, feelings, and behaviours through the counsellor; resulting in clarity and insight.

3)  Professionally facilitated groups- These groups allow individuals to further process thoughts    and feelings which go beyond the 1-1 counselling sessions.  These groups are not 12 step groups, meaning they are run by specialized addiction counsellors rather than peers.  You can find these groups at agencies such as CAMH, CMHA, and others.

4)  Books – Reading can benefit the individual by helping them expand their mind.  For example, personal growth books can encourage the development of a new positive perspective and    outlook.  Thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain is able to build new neural connections which can aid in strengthening and positively influencing recovery.

5)  Family and friend support – By allowing people to know what you are going through and working towards, they are able to understand the supports needed.  Through the best of times and worst of times, knowing they have your back makes recovery that much easier.

6)  Research – Reading many studies and articles about addiction can lead to acceptance which will help to develop strength and courage.

7)  Sports/Physical Activity – Connecting with sports allows for the development of a healthy outlet for stress.  If possible, when the urge to lapse is strong, drop everything and go   play some type of sport or activity.  As time passes, you will find the urges become less frequent and more manageable.  Also, sports are a great way to meet new people and develop friendships with people outside of your addiction circle.  It could even be as simple as going for walks around your neighborhood or yoga.  Basically, anything that gets you to get out of the house and start moving.

8)  Exercise & Nutrition – By exercising and eating well, the brain releases endorphins which makes you feel good.  Focusing on recovery, it is important to stay positive and working    towards healthy outcomes.  Inactivity and a poor diet can lead to negativity and unhealthy outcomes.  When you feel good, you are more likely to maintain the healthy changes you have made.

This is a sample of what a recovery plan could look like.  There are many strategies one could choose to implement.  It is important to figure out what the goals are and what strategies help in achieving those goals.  All of the above strategies influenced me in one way or another to reach my goal of abstinence.

The author, Jason Applebaum, is recovering from gambling addiction.  In May, 2011, he decided to leave his career in the casino industry to focus on his health and recovery.  Currently, he is a Social Service Worker student at Seneca College and is working towards a new career in Responsible Gambling and Social Responsibility.  He has not placed a bet in more than a year and a half (June, 2011).

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