10 Ways to Keep Your Mind off Drugs and Alcohol

Girl meditating on rock.

If you’ve recently left rehab, you’re probably finding it very difficult to keep your mind off drugs and alcohol. You were likely aware that early recovery would not be easy, but the lasting effects on the brain often take people by surprise. Addiction is a disease of the body and mind, and preventing yourself from thinking about drugs and alcohol is one of the biggest hurdles of early recovery. This can be particularly hard if you live in a cold climate and are still experiencing the wrath of winter.

Tips for Keeping Your Mind Off Drugs 

Here are ten effective ways to keep your mind off drugs and alcohol in the early days of recovery. Remember, each day is a work in progress.

1. Meditate. Meditation is a form of therapy that is beneficial for just about anyone. It will help you detach from the hectic world you’ve returned to. It will make your mind calmer and focused, and the practice can turn negative feelings into positive ones. Practicing meditation each day is a wonderful outlet for stress and will help stop the cycle of compulsive, obsessive thinking.

2. Paint or draw. You may be thinking, “I’m not artistic!” but you don’t need to have a knack for art to practice it. Painting and drawing takes a lot of focus, and this diverts attention away from drugs and alcohol. Start with drawing books that teach you how to draw basic objects in a step-by-step fashion. Or, turn on some music and paint, letting your emotions run free.

3. Walk or hike. Getting outdoors removes you from your environment and helps you see the bigger picture in life. It’s best to choose a route that gets you out of your familiar environment. Try local forest preserves, hiking trails and scenic walking paths. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes.

4. Garden. Pulling weeds out of the garden is a good outlet for stress. Planting seeds and watching flowers, vegetables, fruits and herbs grow is exciting and gives you a sense of purpose. Plus, it can inspire you to try new, healthy dishes and spend more time outdoors, all of which is good for recovery.

5. Write. You don’t have to be a good writer or a grammar perfectionist to put words on paper. Writing freely gets your inner emotions on paper without worrying about what others will think of you. As you read through the words, you can better understand your feelings and make sense of them. Try keeping a journal, writing poetry or starting a blog.

6. Go fishing. Fishing is a constructive pastime because it gets you outdoors in the sun with a purpose: to catch fish. You can set goals for yourself, try new fishing areas and even cook some of your catches. The good thing is that you are busy and not home dwelling on the absence of drugs and alcohol from your life.

7. Learn a new language or instrument. It takes a lot of skill to learn a new language or instrument. The focus and concentration that is required takes your mind off the addiction and channels the energy into something constructive. Make goals for yourself as well. For instance, if you’re learning Spanish, plan for a possible trip to Mexico in the future.

8. Martial arts. There are many types of sports and activities that are great for recovering addicts, but if we had to pick one, martial arts would be a top contender. Martial arts requires diligence and discipline. It’s personally competitive but doesn’t force you to contribute to a team, which you may not be ready for just yet. Also, many of the skills learned in martial arts allow you to release pent up anger and frustration.

9. Volunteer. The world needs more people who are willing to give up their time to make a difference. You don’t need money to volunteer; you don’t need talents to make a difference. Between homeless shelters, rescue pet organizations and environmental cleanup efforts, there are hundreds of opportunities to get out in the real world and find your purpose. Seeing the struggles of others can help put things in perspective as well.

10. Embrace change. It can be hard to take your mind off drugs and alcohol when everything else is the same. Try changing up your routine or scenery: rearrange the furniture, choose a different route to work, mix up your morning schedule, cook different foods, etc. These small changes can kick you into a new routine that doesn’t leave a nagging feeling for that missing something.