Recovery doesn’t end when someone suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD) completes a treatment program. After getting sober comes staying sober. Skills, including establishing boundaries, emotional regulation, and coping strategies, must be developed to prevent the possibility of relapse from happening. One of these skills is cooking.
You may be wondering why cooking is important in the recovery process. The benefits of cooking in recovery go well beyond a full stomach. Cooking at home greatly improves the quality of life by aiding with the recovery process, improving physical and mental well-being, and facilitating bonding activities with family and friends.
Cooking Aids with the Recovery Process
Everyone needs to eat, of course, but cooking goes beyond satisfying physical needs to aid with the recovery process in various ways. When transitioning to life without substance abuse, it’s important to find activities that you enjoy that don’t involve illicit substances. Cooking provides a stimulating and, at times, creative activity that doesn’t include drugs or alcohol.
There’s a reason cooking is referred to as the culinary arts. It provides a creative outlet that reduces the idle time and boredom that may tempt you to turn back to substance abuse. The amount of attention that cooking requires is an excellent way to stave off the boredom that can lead to a relapse.
Another reason why cooking is important pertains to environmentally triggering factors. Cooking at home is a great way to avoid restaurants that may serve alcohol. Many addicts find that being around alcohol is a trigger for more dangerous substance abuse. With temptation removed, your focus is instead shifted to the task at hand: making delicious food.
Cooking is Good for your Physical Health
It surely comes as no surprise that when you make your own food, you get to control what goes in it. Cooking is considered healthier than eating outside of the home because factors like how much sodium or sugar a meal has can be controlled.
Additionally lending to why cooking is important in recovery is the fact that substance abuse takes a toll on the body of the user. Addicts are often prone to neglecting their physical health when in the grips of active addiction. The effect of drugs and alcohol on the human body may also leave recovering addicts in a weaker physical state.
Cooking with your health in mind is a step in undoing the damage that drugs or alcohol may have done to the body. Alcoholism, for example, can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers, and other serious health conditions. By preparing and eating nutritious meals, full of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables, physical health and immunity can be directly improved to avoid serious life-altering conditions.
Cooking is Beneficial for your Cognition and Mental Health
Cooking isn’t rocket science, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t cognitively demanding. This is a principal factor in why cooking is important as addiction disrupts cognitive function. Recipes can be complex and require careful attention to the measurements and processes involved in making specific meals. As you move from simple recipes to more complex ones, the brain adjusts more and more to life without drugs or alcohol.
Addiction rewires the human brain to seek instant gratification. Food-related activities that seem innocuous may still provide that instant gratification. The easy accessibility of fast food or junk food can be a detriment to learning to take your time. Cooking, on the other hand, requires that you take the time to make a meal properly.
Cooking healthy meals can also positively impact one’s mental health. Many people who struggle with substance abuse find that a catalyst in their addiction was a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety. By taking care of your physical health, you put yourself in a better place emotionally. After all, food isn’t only fuel for the body, but it’s also fuel for the mind.
Cooking is a Socially Engaging Activity
Sharing responsibility in the kitchen is a nurturing way to support your family or show your spouse that you care. Many people who suffer from addiction lose track of themselves and their place in their home life or relationships. By taking the reigns in the kitchen, you can show your loved ones that they can trust you to share household responsibilities.
Cooking is an activity that doesn’t have to happen alone. It can be a wonderful bonding experience to spend an evening cooking a meal together with your spouse, children, or other relatives. Choosing to make a loved one’s favorite meal can also show them that you care about them and know them deeply.
This goes for friendships as well. It can be difficult for adults to find activities or events in which to engage socially with friends that don’t revolve around drinking. Many adult activities also happen in places where drug use is frequent such as bars or clubs. Dinner parties, without alcohol present, provide an experience where friends can connect over a shared love of food, adding to the reasons why cooking is important in recovery.
Cooking for a Substance-Free Future
There are many reasons why cooking is important in the recovery process. Recovery is an ongoing, life-long process that individuals with SUD engage in. It requires the implementation of hobbies or skill sets that remove drugs and alcohol from the life of the person in recovery. Cooking checks both of these boxes. It is both a practical skill and an activity that improves physical and mental health. Cooking also strengthens relationships and supports the overall recovery process.
Nicholas DeSimone PHD, LPC, LCADC, ICGCII, ACS founded Kingsway Recovery, LLC in Mullica Hill, New Jersey in June of 2017 after 5 1/2 years of recovery and a wide history of working in a variety of treatment modalities. Throughout his time in recovery he married his loving wife, completed his Masters, PHd and became a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor. He also is a Certified Trauma and Gambeling Specialist. Today, Kingway has grown to have 8 clinicians and over 30 staff members with a variety of treatment tracks all dedicated to helping people in recovery and giving them the opportunity to heal.