Self-discipline in recovery is so important to avoid relapse and to lead a happy healthy life. Even for those who are not struggling with addiction, self-discipline, self-control and will power is not only difficult to manage, but it’s the key to a better life and a secure future1 2.

Your ability to resist instant gratification in lieu of a better future outcome is what will ensure your happiness, health and success3.

We discuss will power and self-discipline in recovery a lot at our Boca Raton sober living home for men, and how important it is to resist, even in the darkest of times.

The following exercise is not a medically proven self-discipline challenge, but something we think might benefit a few people struggling to with their own will power. If you ever feel like relapse is imminent, you know what to do, call your sponsor, go to a meeting see an addiction counselor.

The Five R’s of Discipline in Recovery

Learning how to be more disciplined requires each of steps. None can be left out. If you really want to change, commit to these five R’s.


Routine and self-discipline go hand in hand. The military has known this for thousands of years which is why routine is such a major part of life in the military. In basic training, your entire day is planned out for you, down to the minute [4]. Self-discipline cannot exist without routine.

Understand that without routine, you cannot be truly successful maintaining self-discipline in recovery. You should create a daily routine that you can stick to. Make it simple at first, but be very strict with yourself. Stick to your schedule.

The Art of Manliness has a great post and example of a morning and night time routine you can use as a template. There will also be a few basic routines we recommend at the end of this article.


Discipline in recovery is linked to removal in various ways. One sure-fire way to avoid temptation is to remove it, this is especially true of people in early recovery and it’s recommended because for some men in recovery it works.

But it’s not always the best option. Temptation will be everywhere, and eventually you must learn the discipline to avoid it mentally.

The best way to do this is to remove the mindset completely. Research shows that those who say, “I can’t do X” are more likely to succumb to temptation while those who say, “I don’t do X” are more likely to avoid succumbing [5].

So instead of saying “I can’t eat that ice cream” try instead say “I won’t eat ice cream”. You’ll be surprised how such a little change can make such a big difference.


The energy model of self-control says that we all have a limited amount of self-control, like a tank of gas, we eventually run out, get tired and succumb to temptation [6]. Will power in recovery is limited as well and we need time to regroup.

Refection is a way to recoup, rejuvenate, and refill your mental tank.

Reflection has always been a big part of recovery as well. Step 4 of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” [7]. That searching moral inventory is meant to set you free, to apologize and ask for forgiveness is so important.

But you are also given the opportunity to reflect. To make an inventory of ourselves, we begin to understand the implications of our own actions. And when we are consistently reflecting on our choices we become aware of the outcomes.

That allows us to maintain self-discipline and avoid impulsive behavior.

Rigorous Exercise

We can’t talk about routine without mentioning the benefits of exercise in recovery. Now, you are in recovery and one of the best gifts you can give yourself in sobriety is to engage in healthy lifestyle changes, among them regular exercise. A quality men’s transitional house, such as Boca House for Men, has a fully equipped weight room and a softball league for residents, and a swimming pool. Parks, beaches, hiking are other ways to rebuild the body, the mind, and the spirit.

The impact of exercise on a person’s well-being has long been documented. The benefits, described below, are even more significant for those in early recovery. Think about it, drugs and alcohol have distorted the brain’s ability to function normally. Chances are that the substance abuser has suffered from poor diet, poor sleeping habits, poor circulation, poor respiration, and depression, to name only a few. Exercise has a positive impact upon all these areas. Exercise includes running, yoga, weight training, dance, aerobic classes, team sports, for example. Any routine that involves the muscles, the joints, and the lungs will be beneficial especially in early sobriety.

The body’s immediate response to exercise is a release of endorphins. These chemicals and others related to the pleasure pathways in the brain are the same as those stimulated by drugs and alcohol. Some of the immediate effects of a regular exercise routine and weight training regime are:

  • Increase in pleasurable non drug induced states
  • Reduction of depressive symptoms
  • Decrease in negative moods
  • Building self-efficacy (the belief that one can master a particular skill)
  • Decrease in stress levels
  • Decrease in urges to use substances

The use of exercise helps rejuvenate the body’s energy level and strengthen the body’s skeleton. Within a short time, the newly sober individual can see the changes in his physic, the shifting of weight (up or down) and the building of muscle mass.

Regular exercise allows the man to build a social network with like-minded individuals helping to combat isolation. The ability to participate and succeed in an exercise program can build new ways of relating to others, new patterns of recreational activity that are drug free, and a new sense of self.

  1. Studies have illustrated that those early in recovery who participate in exercise (aerobic and strength building) experience a significant decrease in depressive and anxiety symptoms. Many individuals in early sobriety suffer from depression and anxiety.
  2. Exercise improves the ability to deal with daily levels of stress. (An inability to cope with stress is a common factor among the underlying causes for turning to substance abuse)
  3. Exercise promotes healthy sleeping habits
  4. The more steps one takes and succeeds, the better his sense of self-efficacy (the belief that one can master a task). Each success leads to another rebuilding self-esteem
  5. Exercise can decrease the amount of tobacco one smokes

A sober living house or transitional home should provide residents with the ability to work out on the premises. With the ability to engage in regular exercise, a man can learn to set and achieve goals, deal with stress in constructive ways, and create time-management skills.

For a quality structured, sober living community for men in recovery call 877-957-8187.

Respect for Yourself & Others

One of the most important things that you will learn during drug and alcohol addiction recovery is the importance of self-respect. If you are wondering why self-respect is so important, it is because most addicts who enter addiction treatment have zero self-respect. If you do not respect yourself or value your life, then how can you expect others to do so? Ultimately, the decision to kick your addiction is up to you. You have to value your body and value your life in order for others to take you seriously when offering their help.

Every day in addiction treatment, you will be taught effective coping skills for dealing with life stressors, and the importance of self-respect and honesty. These three components are vital to living a long, happy, healthy, and more importantly…a sober life. Remember not to lie to yourself or others because lying means that you are violating the promise of honesty that you made when you chose not to use drugs or alcohol anymore.

When you learn to respect yourself and put yourself and your recovery first, others will also learn to respect you and your recovery. Although it can be hard to change your habits and way of thinking, each day in recovery will make it easier and bring you one step closer to your goal of sobriety.

Self-Discipline Checklist

Be sure include some of these on your routine. All selfdiscipline in recovery is based on some of these basic principles.

  1. Wake up the same time every day.
  2. Stop the most time-consuming part of your day. For example, if you spend most of your time on your phone, put it away after 7 P.M.
  3. Take a walk after dinner every night. Start going to the gym.
  4. Eat a large breakfast every morning.
  5. Dedicate 1 hour of every day to reading.
  6. Eat at the same time every day.
  7. Create a routine time to call family or catch up with friends.

Create your own list. Create your own rules. Create a better life for yourself.

Learn more about the importance of self-respect and honesty in addiction recovery by calling our addiction hotline at 877-957-8187.




[1]: The Atlantic – What the Marshmallow Test Really Teaches About Self-Control.

[2]: Psychology Today – Self-Control and Success.

[3]: American Psychological Association – What You Need to Know about Willpower.

[4]: Army and Navy Academy – Daily Schedule for Boarding Cadets.

[5]: Jstor – “I Don’t” versus “I Can’t”: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior.

[6]: Wray Herbert – On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind’s Hard-Wired Habits (Book).

[7] Alcoholics Anonymous – The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (PDF).

Call 1-888-957-8187