Have you ever changed the time on your clock as a solution to constant lateness? Let me guess. This was successful once or twice and then you started factoring in the minutes left in “real-life” time and were back at square one – experiencing insurmountable stress around being late.We’ve all been there.

The craziest part of this scenario (as if trying to trick ourselves with a fake time wasn’t crazy enough) is that, as addicts, we suffer from what I call “reality-amnesia”. This means, despite evidence that this mind-trick to control time and reduce stress didn’t work 100 times, we focus on the two times it worked as proof that it’s a viable solution. I think “reality-amnesia” is at the core of the expression “doing the same thing expecting different results”.

This destructive relationship to time isn’t unique to addicts. What is unique is that if left unaddressed, it sustains ridiculously high levels of stress and an accompanying inner-monologue of negative self-talk that makes living in the moment impossible. In other words, it keeps you trapped in the same familiar loop of beating yourself up that you were in before getting clean and sober. The crazy part is that this form of self-hating behavior is optional. Yes – optional.

There are many reasons why creating a daily and weekly schedule makes sense for people new to recovery. The main one is to reduce stress and to build in activities that make you feel good. The other is because people in early recovery are prone to feeling easily overwhelmed and when life gets busy, amnesia sets in and an inner bargaining voice takes over pleading a case built on “logic” for skipping activities conducive to long-term sobriety (such as staying home instead of going to a meeting or not responding to calls from your sober support group). It’s so important during the first six months clean to create healthy habits to improve coping skills, reduce stress, and increase feelings of wellbeing. This includes building mutually nurturing relationships with other sober people. The way to do this is to plan out a schedule so that you can pace yourself in a healthy way.

Make a schedule to include your recovery activities (12 step meetings or alternative, fun activities with sober friends) as well as exercise, yoga, meditation, fresh air. Permit yourself an appropriate amount of time alone to rest and rejuvenate yourself (hot bath, Netflix, gardening or whatever you do to unwind). Inner peace comes from balancing life-tasks, health and wellness, recovery activities (therapy, 12-Step, or whichever alternative you follow), time with friends, and quiet time.

Keeping everything in your head without making a schedule you can look at is another version of hell for the newcomer. As soon as the alarm clock goes off your inner monologue starts up. It sounds like a never-ending to-do list that is at battle with the negotiating inner-voice confusing you further with all its “give up this so you can do that” bargaining. Before you’ve even opened your eyes you’re feeling overwhelming pressure. This will distract you with inertia. Next thing you know it’s time to be out the door and you aren’t ready – now you’ll be late and the familiar stress of the race against time is upon you hardcore.

As far as playing “beat the clock”, if you wake up Monday morning with a prepared schedule that includes travel time, it will be easier to pace yourself appropriately. The key is to follow this type of routine for 90 days. In that time many of the activities will be producing good feelings and will be noticeably reducing stress.

I challenge you to use a written daily/weekly schedule for 90 days and judge the results for yourself. Less stress is possible by stopping the game of beat the clock. The choice is yours.

  Feb 28, 2015

Patty is a nationally recognized certified recovery coach and writer. She lives in New York City.

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