Routines vs. Ruts

Stuck in RutAs I mentioned several weeks ago, routines can be a comfort to us when we are working through our recoveries. They provide an element of control in a world/life run amok with sin, chaos, and addiction(s).

Routines in training can be beneficial when they are appropriately applied, such as physical fitness workouts which can certainly help us maintain our physical and mental health, so long as we don’t overdo it. If we will continue to put forth effort both in the gym and in recovery, we will continue to make progress, no matter how slow, if we don’t give up when we don’t see immediate results, or when the results are not readily apparent. The military training maxim, “Train as you Fight” is the fundamental principle upon which most military training is based. This training must ensure that individuals and units receive realistic training that simulates wartime conditions and should prepare them to perform their tasks and meet operational standards during the complex, stressful, and lethal situations they will encounter in war.

Routines can be beneficial when we are learning a new skill or making new, or breaking old, habits. Even though repetition of healthy activities can replace old, negative, behaviors, we need to guard against falling into ruts. If we are not careful, routines can turn into a dependency on these routines, posing the risk of potentially trading one addiction for another. For example, I ride a train to/from work most days, and it is apparent everyone has developed a routine as to which car they get on and which seat they sit in. However, there are those occasions where the train stops in a slightly different location relative to the platform or there is someone new on the train who sits in “their” seat. While these are trivial inconveniences, people often become visibly disconcerted and/or upset at the disruption to their routine.

On a spiritual/mental level, we must also beware that we don’t become so dependent upon routines that, when those routines are disrupted, we completely fall apart in our recovery efforts and relapse into our addiction(s) due to faulty thinking that our whole world is coming apart and then falling back on our old, comfortable, and familiar habits. As 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, Satan is always looking for an opening through which he can attack us and tear us down, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

While routines are helpful in many situations, they can be dangerous, or even deadly, as well. Routines in training and in the performance of our jobs can lead to complacency. This can lead to our being caught unawares or unprepared and could easily lead to death or serious bodily harm for ourselves and/or those around us. This brings to mind the oft repeated story of warning about some Police Officers who have been killed in shootouts only to find their spent brass in their pants/coat pockets because this is how they had trained over and over again while on the range. Fortunately, training has improved to the point where realistic training is taking precedence over range cleanliness and collection of spent brass.

Fear of change is normal and expected. Remember – as scary as change can be, what is even scarier is allowing fear to prevent you from growing and achieving ultimate fulfillment. Often, we will avoid making changes that we know deep down we need to make because we are afraid of change. It is not uncommon for us to forget all of this at one point or another along our journey of recovery, and begin feeling dissatisfied with the current state of things. We may feel bored, restless, or stuck in a rut.

Instead of falling back into a rut of the familiar and risking relapse, I encourage you to find healthier ways of reducing stress, anxiety, and depression that won’t serve as triggers for relapse or lead to temptation.

Taking Every Thought Captive!

Scott Pipenhagen
Recovery / Transition Chaplain
Serve & Protect & Guns’n’Hoses
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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About Scott P.

Scott is a retired Military LEO and a Volunteer Chaplain with Serve & Protect (www.serveprotect.org) where he seeks to provide transition services for First Responders and Military personnel by mentoring and connecting them with local 12 Step or similar Faith-Based recovery programs, local Chaplains, and Trauma Therapists to continue their recovery journey following residential care treatment. Scott contributes these devotions to the Serve & Protect ministry Facebook page: Guns'n'Hoses (https://www.facebook.com/GunsHosesMinistry). Scott has been involved in Faith-Based recovery programs since 2006 and has a Bachelor of Science in Religion through Liberty University and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies through Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Fredericksburg, VA, and can be contacted at spipenhagen@liberty.edu.
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