Among common reasons for substance abuse are boredom, feelings of personal worthlessness, and lack of purpose in life. To understand the importance of substance abuse substitutes, switch “desperate to retreat into an artificial high” for “hurried” in the following quote from philosopher Eric Hoffer, and you have a truth perfectly applicable to any of the above situations: “The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is, on the contrary, born of a vague fear that we are wasting our lives. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else; we are the busiest people in the world.”
Anyone who suffers from chronic “always running and getting nowhere” feelings is at potential risk for substance abuse—not to mention other dangerous addictions such as workaholism and obsessive anxiety. If you think you know what you were made for but have pushed it aside because others called it “silly” or “impractical,” give it a fresh consideration and more of your time; if not, look for a “talents and interests” test to help clarify where best to shift your life focus. In either case—or even if you’re sure you’re on the right path but have let anxiety and overload cloud your joy in it—try a few of the following activities to build healthy habits, clear your thinking, discover your purpose, and give yourself something to do besides opening another bottle.
12 Effective Substance Abuse Substitutes
1. Take a stroll in the nearest nature preserve
Googling “nature park” or “county parks” or “arboretum” with your hometown’s name can help you find the right place. Don’t think that the weather has to be “beautiful” for you to try this one. Even chilly, rainy, or hot days can show natural beauty to the mindful soul; just be sure to dress appropriately, bring a water bottle, and not wander too far alone down unfamiliar trails.
2. Visit a farmers’ market and buy yourself the makings of a fresh salad
While at the market, enjoy the outdoor setting, and take advantage of the camaraderie to make some new friends. When you eat the salad, chew slowly and let yourself fully experience its crispiness and flavor.
3. Invite a friend over for dessert and coffee, and make the dessert yourself
Of course, you can cook a whole dinner if you genuinely enjoy that sort of thing; but if you find the thought overwhelming, dessert is much easier. It can, in fact, be very easy, just a matter of scooping ice cream and topping into bowls, or of following the instructions on an instant-pudding box. The important thing is to have something to enjoy with good company and good conversation; who could ask for a better substance abuse substitute in an evening?
4. Learn 10 yoga poses and practice them daily
Some of the easiest poses for beginners are the “cat” (on all fours with back arched), the “waterfall” (standing and hanging down from the waist), and the “butterfly” (seated on the floor with knees bent outward and feet touching). Look up illustrations, videos, or classes to learn exactly how to strike these and other poses. Since yoga is not something to be rushed through (most poses are held for at least 30–60 seconds), it’s perfect for relaxing the body and cultivating mindfulness.
5. Make a handwritten list of 50 inspirational quotes
Start with quotes you already know—no need to worry over whether they’re “word for word accurate”—rather than immediately rushing to the search engine. When you do reach a mental saturation point and need to look up additional quotes elsewhere, continue writing out what you find, rather than copying and pasting. Putting the words down personally, letter by letter, will help fix their meaning in your mind. For maximum benefit, read each quote out loud as you finish it, and do the same with the completed list.
6. Start a “daily blessings” journal, and carry it with you wherever you go
If you struggle with “I’m not worth much” feelings, it’s a good idea to start the list with your own personal gifts and talents. From there, move on to blessings of relationships, of a place to live and food to eat, of natural beauty from the sky overhead to the flowers in the sidewalk cracks, of all the smooth-functioning things (from the wonders of your own body to the wonders of modern technology) that are so often taken for granted. Be specific; great blessings are found in tiny details.
7. Write a note of encouragement to someone
Handwritten notes are extra special—and can be hidden as special surprises in bureau drawers, purses, or lunch sacks—but even an e-mail or text can brighten someone’s day when it’s clear the writer had them personally in mind. Lifting someone else’s spirits raises your own as well.
8. Create a work of art with paint, clay, chalk, or natural materials
It doesn’t matter if your work will never be fit for the Louvre or if it’s as temporary as a sandcastle; be a kid again for a while and rediscover the art of expressing yourself for the sake of expressing yourself. Art trends change; joy in creating is timeless. Share the results (or the experience) with someone you’re close to.
9. Spend a couple of hours at a museum
Whether you opt for a major art or science museum, or a “weird collections” hole-in-the-wall, let yourself get lost in the many wonders that the world and its human inhabitants can produce.
10. Volunteer to serve at a food pantry, stuff church envelopes, or wrap holiday gifts
Or to pick up trash at a local park, help with a house-building project, share some TLC with the residents at an animal shelter: the possibilities are endless. By helping others, you feel better about yourself and you have an opportunity to develop your talents.
11. Read an inspirational classic
Choose anything from the Bible to a major historical work to a selection from a “greatest books written in the last century” list—or even a brand-new bestseller, so long as it lifts your mind into thoughts about the limitless possibilities of humanity, the world, and things beyond.
12. Stop by the library and look up other ways to make good use of your time
There are tons of books on hobbies, crafts, do-it-yourself projects, outdoor activities, spiritual development, and on and on. Once you start exploring the possibilities for wholesome use of your time, thoughts of killing time with a chemical will vanish into a well-deserved oblivion.
Kemah Palms Can Keep You on the Path to Lasting Recovery
Whether you’ve been in recovery for years or you’re just beginning your journey, Kemah Palms Recovery can help. From beginning treatment in our Houston detox center to graduating into one of our aftercare program options, our compassionate professionals will be there every step of the way.