When you hear the word “ritual,” what comes to mind?
It is possible that your mind immediately goes to religious practice and the various rituals associated with different faiths. The ritual often called “communion,” for example, is a Christian ritual that calls to mind Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. The five daily prayers of Muslims, known as salat, are another example of a religious ritual. The Passover Seder is a significant Jewish ritual celebrating the Angel of Death passing over Jews in captivity in Egypt.
But the notion of ritual is relevant in contexts other than religion. In fact, rituals can be a powerful part of your recovery journey.
The Reasons for Ritual in Recovery
So what does it mean to think about rituals in the context of recovery? Well, in one sense, the creation of personal recovery rituals serves the same purpose religious rituals do: they help you remember key ideas that can provide ongoing encouragement for you to maintain your sobriety.
It can also be helpful to think of rituals as carefully crafted, intentional habits. Habits, of course, can be problematic if, for example, you are in the habit of drinking every night after work. But habits can also be a powerful tool. For example, you may get into the daily habit of writing in a recovery journal. That habit can strengthen your resolve as your recovery journey continues.
There are many options for establishing personal rituals in support of your recovery. For example, making a commitment to attending 12-Step meetings on a regular basis is a ritual akin to attending weekly worship services. And, of course, the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are arguably rituals in and of themselves.
Other options for helpful habits include daily mindfulness practice, which emphasizes staying present rather than letting your thoughts dwell in the past or worry about the future. You could take up yoga, a physical practice that also offers stress relief and a potential refocusing of your thoughts. You might consider engaging in some sort of regular artistic practice—learning a new instrument, painting, writing stories, taking a dance class—that can provide something on which to focus and goals to achieve over time.
You might also consider developing rituals around key parts of your daily life like your diet, your exercise routine, and your sleep schedule. Good nutrition, consistent exercise, and restful sleep can all provide boosts to both your physical and mental health—which in turn provide support to your recovery efforts. Planning your meal schedule in advance, finding an exercise you enjoy and can commit to, and establishing an evening routine that leads to a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis are all rituals that can serve you well.
Ritual Is Important But So Is Grace
Establishing some rituals in your daily routine can be a powerful way to ensure your recovery journey stays on track. But it is also important to remember that your rituals are designed to serve you—not to stress you out. So if you don’t quite hit your goal each day—you miss a day of exercise or meditation, eat something decadent, stay up late reading or watching a movie, fail to write the day’s journal entry, or whatever—it is important to be kind to yourself. Not only can you get back on track, but you are also entitled to enjoying a day off from your rituals if that serves you well in a given moment.
That said, we want to be extremely clear: We are not talking about taking a day off from your sobriety. Missing a day of meditation or eating too much dessert are in no way equivalent to picking up a drink or taking drugs because you “need a break” from your rituals and routines.
First Step: Rehab
Before you can establish a set of routines and rituals that will support your recovery, you need to establish your sobriety. At Safe Harbor Recovery Center, we provide rehabilitation services that are personalized to you. We can address your substance use disorder as well as any co-occurring disorders like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and more. In doing so, we will help you establish a firm foundation upon which to build your recovery. Our commitment to a continuum of care will ensure you have access to the resources you need to maintain your sobriety over the long haul. If you need help, we hope you will reach out to us.