Finding Balance in Recovery

Helping alcoholics and addicts create equilibrium in their life—and why it’s important

Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC

Finding “balance.” A term that sends shivers down the spine of an alcoholic or addict—active or sober.

Many alcoholics and addicts have extreme personalities that often lack moderation. So when they get sober, it can be a challenge to change their lifestyle to one that is conducive with recovery.

Early sobriety can often mimic a game of “whack a mole,” in which the alcoholism is under control but then another addictive, extreme behavior or mental health issue comes to the surface.

When someone gets sober there is a part of them that often misses the chaos, drama, and stimulation that their drinking life may have provided. Therefore, they may act out in other ways or begin to behave in excessive ways such as over-working, becoming dependent on a romantic relationship, overeating, etc. These extremes are a sign that a person has not healed and can sometimes become triggers to relapse.

Making time for comprehensive treatment

Many sober individuals may also have a co-occurring mental health condition that requires treatment as well. While their substance(s) of choice may have been used for self-medication purposes—or to hide the underlying mental health issue—the condition(s) will inevitably surface.

Comprehensive treatment involves treatment for these underlying conditions as well as behavioral changes.

But before behavioral changes can be made, individuals need to receive appropriate care. This can include therapy, medication management, rehab, mutual-help groups, etc. Once other health conditions are addressed, it is much easier for alcoholics and addicts to see the necessity of behavioral changes—and a balanced life.

H.A.L.T and balanced self-care

The acronym H.A.L.T (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) can be used to remind sober individuals of mood states that can perpetuate vulnerability to cravings and/or relapse. And those who have longer term recovery also learn that extremes of any nature—positive or negative—are also not helpful for recovery.

Self-care becomes a way of life and individuals need to find ways to create equilibrium in their life. This includes evaluating time/energy spent exercising, meditating, creating healthy relationship boundaries, attending therapy, attending meetings, eating regularly and healthy, getting adequate sleep, etc.

Free worksheet on finding balance

Finding balance can be hard for anyone, but particularly for those in recovery. That’s why I’ve created this free worksheet that can help you or a loved one to examine balance distribution in a variety of areas in life and identify what areas need more or less focus.
If you are looking for more tips on guiding alcoholics and substance users to recovery, check out my continuing education opportunities here.

Meet the Author:
Sarah Allen Benton is the author of the book Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic and has been featured frequently in the media, including the New York Times. She has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, “The Today Show”, “The CBS Early Show”, NPR, and is a blogger for

A Licensed Mental Health Counselor and co-owner of Benton Behavioral Health Consulting, LLC, Sarah is a clinical consultant for Aware Recover Care and the former director of clinical services at Aware Recovery Care, a home-based addiction treatment in North Haven, CT. She is also a clinical consultant for The Strathmore House transitional sober living for men in Boston, MA. She worked previously as an outpatient therapist specializing in addiction treatment at Insight Counseling in Ridgefield, CT, Turnbridge young adult male addiction treatment in New Haven, CT and at McLean Hospital at McLean Brook transitional living program for dual diagnosis in Belmont, MA.

Sarah approaches addiction from the position of a counselor with lived experience, having been in long term recovery from alcoholism since February 2004. Learn more about her products.

Topic: Addictions

Tags: Activity | Boundaries | Strategies | Therapy Tools | Tools

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