It’s no surprise that alcoholism and addiction can come to govern the lives of its victims. Days may be structured around drinking or drug use. Companions may be selected or rejected on the basis of their willingness to participate. Considerable time and effort may be devoted to the task of avoiding discovery or confrontation. In a sense, addiction becomes the central organizing principle of an addict’s life.

With treatment, that comes to an abrupt end. Leading to the question: what next? What to do with all that free time?

The answer is a recovery routine. 12 Step fellowships often begin with consistent attendance — so many meetings in so many days. That’s a way of introducing a positive routine into your lifestyle.

No need to stop there. Many recovering persons establish new routines around eating, relaxing, resting, socializing. There may be new practices specifically to support recovery — taking up yoga or meditation, a sport or hobby, or making important changes in diet or exercise. All designed to help us adjust to life without substances.

For a long time, people thought three or four weeks of practice was enough to make a new routine ‘automatic’. Turns out the process is more complicated. Some routines are easier to establish than others. Taking a short nap after work or school, or switching out bacon and eggs for high-fiber cereal, are relatively easy. Putting in an hour at the gym or renouncing refined sugars can present a greater challenge.

Generally speaking, 60-90 days of repetition are required for a daily routine to feel natural. Bigger changes can require more than 6 months. Missing a day here and there doesn’t wipe out your progress to date. Missing several days in a row, however, can represent a setback.

Some of us appear more resistant to changes in routine. That’s probably related to our personalities. For those individuals, establishing new routines may require more determination and support.

But it’s invariably worth it.