Thumbnail photo of The Three Strands Of Sobriety

Structure, Activity, And Connection

When a newly sober person enters a recovery program or community, they are often inundated with a barrage of new conceptual principles and unique language. This can feel overwhelming, as they are still adjusting to a life without substances. This is where the three strands of sobriety come in: structure, activity, and connection.

How To Restructure Your Life After Addiction

The brain is a creature of habit. It loves to normalize behaviors and create a specific structure through neural pathways that it can associate with familiarity and, therefore, remind us to engage in those behaviors when it experiences anxiousness or fear.

When our coping mechanisms include behavior that was initially comforting, the brain can create psychological dependencies that, when ignored, can be as disruptive as the body’s craving mechanisms. Simply stated, resetting the brain and its relationship to a new “normal” will require intentional actions and practices of new, positive behaviors that can eventually be adopted, resulting in the resetting of old, unwanted behaviors.

Structure, activity, and connection are the three strands that make up our lifeline to a sober future.

David Hampton

Addressing intentional change in these three spheres of our lives will ultimately impact our ideology, physiology, and chemistry, resulting in potential long-term sobriety.


Structure is simply determining what we will include in each day, what is realistic and necessary, and what we will prioritize over something else. A workable structure model will involve intentional daily planning so that there is certainty about what we will engage in (and when) over a given day.

If you struggle with deciding on where to add structure into your life, some things to consider include:

  • What time to get up in the morning
  • The first thing you’ll do after getting out of bed
  • What you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • What time you’ll leave for work to avoid the scattered feeling of being late
  • When you need to grocery shop and re-stock on essentials
  • What you’ll watch/read/do when you need a distraction
  • When to exercise and engage in physical activity
  • When to rest and go to bed

An intentional relationship to structure can impact things like how we handle our finances, define priorities, and prioritize relationships. All this advanced planning may seem like overkill at first. Still, the reality is that the old impulse model left the brain feeling anxious and uncertain, resulting in quick-fix solutions that availed minimal benefit. This new regimen may feel uncomfortable at first, but perseverance is key.

Over a period of a few weeks these habits will become second nature. Even in the first few days, it can feel empowering as we realize how eliminating indecision can reduce our levels of anxiety.


Activity is equally important in recovery because it offers the immediate payoff of “feel good” chemicals (endorphins) that the brain releases when we sustain active movement over an extended period.

These endorphins are nature’s antidepressant. When these chemicals wash through our brain, they allow feelings of satisfaction and a release of stress as well as boost mood and mental clarity

Psychiatric practitioners emphasize the importance of physical activity for depression and anxiety disorders (which accompany substance use disorders nearly 50% of the time) for these very reasons. The brain and body are one, and they function as one synchronized dance of chemistry and physiology, making movement an essential part of our mental and emotional well-being.

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Connection in this context first consists of our connection with something greater than ourselves, such as a Higher Power, a cause, a group, or any association with something that places us in what we would call an “outward facing” perspective.

Daily mindfulness and spiritual practices come into play as part of releasing, surrendering, and setting the mind in a place of serenity. This is often the space where reflecting upon the spiritual principles of recovery comes into play. Secondly, we must explore our motivations, resentments, and areas where cognitive dissonance (behavior that is inconsistent with what we say we value or believe) shows up in our lives and intentionally address it.

Connection with others is also essential. This can be in the form of support groups, recovery communities, service work, causes, and things we do that are not for our personal gain.

We will also experience the benefit of what many call the neurology of joy that comes from simply sharing time with those from whom we derive the most happiness. Again, this will require intentional planning, scheduling, and exploring what we would like to invest ourselves in. Connection confronts the intimacy we were robbed of in our old behaviors and allows us to feel seen, heard, and known, which is where we find our most genuine satisfaction in this integrated life called recovery.

Start Your Recovery Journey Today

The three strands of sobriety (structure, activity, and connection) set the framework for a positive recovery journey and the lifeline to a new quality of living. The lifeline that these three strands offer will result in empowerment and the psychological reset needed to honor our most important new agreements, which are those that we make with ourselves.

If you are ready to start your journey towards an addiction-free future, contact a treatment provider today to explore your treatment options.

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