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Practical Exercises Can Help in Addiction Recovery

Because relapse is often a reality in recovery of any addiction, keeping oneself engaged in continued practical skills can help create hopeful outcomes. The 1997 version of the movie Titanic cost over 200 million dollars to produce, however, the movie eventually grossed over 1.8 billion dollars! Recovery takes a lot of time and energy, but in the long run, it is well worth it. Like in the production of the movie Titanic, when much is put in, much greater is gained.

A Few Practical Exercises to Try

Here are a few practical exercises you (or someone you know) can use in the recovery process that may be helpful. Keep in mind, however that while these may be helpful, they are not exclusive, nor intended to replace formal counseling. Sponsorship or mentorship is also an integral aspect to the recovery process:

  1. Join in: When geese fly in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Whenever a goose falls out of the formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go at it alone. People who share common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

    For this exercise get involved with an organized group or club with emphasis on being with others. The group can be either religious or secular. Start off with making a list of prospective organizations or clubs that you wish to connect with, and then list their contact information. Then contact them and get the specifics. Then visit them. Once you find your niche, then highlight it and start attending regularly. Make this your new habit.

  2. Clean out the house: You may be holding onto phone numbers of past users or enablers telling yourself, “I’ll hold on to these contacts so I can reach out and help them when I’m better.” The bottom line is that you have to clean the slate. In this practical behavioral exercise, clear out old phone numbers; clean out those things around the house, office, car, or any other area that has fed into your addiction. Address and telephone logs (written or electronic) are examples. This creates a safer environment for you in your recovery.
  3. Identifying and fixing your triggers: What specifically makes you tick? In this exercise think about what triggers there are to your addiction. Triggers can be things like free time on certain times of the day, or driving past a particular bar or other places. Whatever your triggers are, come up with strategies to fix them. For example, if a particular place is a trigger then the “fix it” strategy would be to not drive past that place. Plan another route. Much of this involves a behavioral change, but fixing triggers lessens the gateway to relapse and promotes a better recovery environment.
  4. Pick their brain: For this exercise, list three or more people who have had a problem with addiction and have been helped. If you don’t know of anyone personally, ask someone for referrals. You could attend a self-help meeting and search for individuals who have sustained recovery time. Many people who have recovery time are willing to help others and open to talk about their experiences. Go to at least three of these people and ask them for their advice or assistance. Pay attention to any skills they have used to help in their recovery. Record their responses. Use this feedback as inspiration for yourself.
  5. Say good-bye: Whether you like to think of it this way of not, you have had a close relationship with your addiction. It has been an arena full of excitements, although followed by let downs, it has filled a large void in your life. It has occupied a lot of your time, whether it was in your head or in acting-out activities. At some point you have to put an end to your relationship with it. It is very much like a loss, such as losing a friend or getting a divorce. While it is best to leave it, there will be some pain involved. It is a voluntary decision.

    If you are ready to say goodbye to it, then write a good-bye letter. In your letter, tell the addiction what it did to you, what you won’t miss, and the new joy you’ll have. Share your grief, what you’ll miss about it, what adaptations it served for you. Tell it how it has been replaced. Finally, tell it how it needs to go way and stay away and how you will live your life without it.

Beating addiction is hard work and people need lots of help and lots of ways to get through it. But keep in mind, others have beat it, so can you, and there’s help and support available!

Practical Exercises Can Help in Addiction Recovery

James E. Phelan, LCSW, BCD, Psy.D

James E. Phelan is a program coordinator at the Veterans Health Administration in Columbus, Ohio. He received his doctorate degree in Psychology (Psy.D) from the Southern California University for Professional Studies, master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from Marywood University, and MBA from Franklin University. He is a Board Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (BCD) and an Internationally Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor. Enjoy other practical advice from the author: "The Addictions Recovery Workbook: 101 Practical Exercises for Individuals and Groups," and “The Stages of Change Workbook: Practical Exercises for Personal Awareness and Change,” both available on Amazon.

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APA Reference
Phelan, J. (2019). Practical Exercises Can Help in Addiction Recovery. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 22 Aug 2019 (Originally: 7 Feb 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 22 Aug 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.