Bad Day in Recovery? 10 Ways to Turn It Around Right Now

Everyone has bad days, but if you are in recovery, a bad day can turn into a bad week or a bad year if it leads to relapse. The not-so-great news is that it is often little, uncontrollable, and unexpected things that can completely throw us off track – spilling coffee, getting knocked by someone accidentally, or a critical word that comes out of nowhere – and ruin the day. The awesome news is that it is just as easy to turn things around, to let go of the little thing that popped up, and to get back on track in life and in recovery.

If you are having a bad moment, here are 10 ways you can fix it right now:

  1. Change your scenery. If you are in the house, step outside. If you are in a meeting, head out into the hall. If you’re outside, get into a coffee shop or duck into a music store or pet shop, and change what you are looking back and the air you are breathing. Even a small change can make a big difference in your perspective and your attitude, and many times, that is all you need.
  2. Take a breath. If you have the ability to walk away from a stressful situation or to take a moment and pause, then do so. Try to clear your head and do nothing but take a deep breath in, hold that breath, and then exhale longer than you inhaled. It can help you to count it out: Inhale for six counts, exhale for eight counts then inhale for eight counts, and exhale for 10 counts, until you are taking deep breaths that slow the heart rate and help you to feel calmer.
  3. Laugh. Maybe it’s too soon to laugh at the situation, but if you can, try to. If not, take a break and enjoy something that always makes you laugh. You can call your funniest friend, watch funny animal videos, or watch a sitcom or standup comic you like. When you can laugh, you take your mind off the situation, and it has the same positive effect as a mini workout.
  4. Get some exercise. If you aren’t interested in a mini laughter “workout,” then go for the real thing. Give yourself an adrenaline boost, change up your scenery, improve your ability to sleep that night, and do something that will not only benefit you in the moment but in the long-term as well.
  5. Choose to think about something else. This may sound simplistic – or maybe impossible, depending on the situation – but if you can, actively choose to think about something else. Turn your attention to what is immediately in front of you, no matter what you are doing and focus on nothing else. Sometimes it helps to shift your focus by turning on your favorite music, opening a book, or heading out to a museum or movie.
  6. Make a gratitude list. No matter how frustrating things are or what difficulties you are facing, there are always many things to be grateful for. Listing them out, small and large, will help you to focus on the positive and stop you from spending too much time worrying about the stressors in your life.
  7. Clear out your space. If you would like to clear out your mental space, it can help to clear out your physical space first. You can clean your home, either by scrubbing it well or by going through and weeding out things you don’t need to make your space more organized. You may also find it useful to do other kinds of “cleaning,” like cleaning out your email or cleaning up your social media accounts.
  8. Call or text someone who gets you. Calling your mom, texting your best friend, or reaching out to your sponsor or someone else in recovery who understands what you are going through can help you to vent and also potentially provide you with some perspective on whatever is bothering you. A little positive encouragement or guidance from someone you trust can help you to breathe easier.
  9. Create something. You do not have to be artistic to create something amazing, but if you are, take the time to focus on nothing else. Paint, take some pictures and edit them to perfection, knit or sew, build something from scratch, or cook an amazing meal. If you are not well-versed in any particular art form, watch a few YouTube videos on something you’ve always wanted to try and make it happen.
  10. Call for reinforcements. Sometimes, no matter what you do, it is impossible to keep the irritation or anger from overwhelming your ability to stay sober. Even if you talk to your friends, go for a run, watch a funny movie, or practice mindfulness like a champ, you may still feel like all you can do is focus on the things that are challenging with no ability to enjoy yourself. If that is the case, whether or not you feel your sobriety is at risk, it pays to connect with people who can help you. Professional therapists, a support group for addiction, and, depending on your situation, a return to rehab on an inpatient or outpatient basis may be the best option.

Are you ready to turn your bad day around?

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

A New Life Awaits
Start your recovery at our spa-like facility in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Holistic therapies, chef-prepared meals, and LGBTQ+ support are among the many features of our premier drug and alcohol treatment program.