Habits are a consequence of previous learning experiences and very complex neurobiological mechanisms, in which the change from voluntary actions to a more habitual and involuntary behavior pattern can be understood as a strong association between a cue, an action and a rewarding consequence. These associations are usually strengthen with repetition.
For those new to recovery, living a healthy and balanced sober life necessarily involves the adoption of new habits. Developing healthier routines will increase your sense of well- being, give your life a new structure, and give you a strong foundation to overcome the challenges and temptations of life after active alcoholism/addiction.
- 12 Step programs: These programs follow a set of structured principles; when followed as suggested out of the basic text; they can very much invoke a whole new set of habits for a healthy lifestyle. Also, the fellowship that’s available with like-minded individuals can be a huge asset. Learn how others deal with fear, built healthier relationships and learned new and more adaptive ways to deal with emotions.
- Replace old responses with new responses: It is based on the idea that breaking old habits can be done by replacing them with a different behavior. As early as entry to the halfway house some learn E.g. Eat a fruit or take a glass of water every time you feel the desire to drink, go to the gym every time you feel tempted to go to the bar. Call someone when you feel like shutting down.
- Change your environment: Successful habit change interventions require the disruption of the environmental aspects (cues, triggers) that automatically activate habit performance. These can be external (going to the bar) or internal (anger, sadness). The idea under this technique is to remove all triggers and cues from your daily life. Although this can be done easier with external cues, there are things we can do to avoid the internal triggers too. The non- habitual behavior is usually guided by intentionality, the same doesn’t happen for acquired habits. When it comes to creating new routines having will power and the intention to change are necessary, but not enough. Breaking old habits, especially those linked to addiction, will require a bit more than that.
- First, you will need to have alternative habits available. Here are some ideas of new habits that you can include in your routine:
- Attend 12 step meetings
- Start eating healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Sleep 6 to 8 hours every day
- Drink water
- House Painting
- Create self- care routines
- Spend quality time with friends and family
- Attend your appointments
When creating these new routines, also make sure to have as less free time as possible. This doesn’t mean you won’t rest, but that you should try to stay focus and use your time on a productive way. Lots of meetings and service work will help greatly.
To stay motivated you will need to have a way to measure success, this is why goal setting becomes so important. Breaking old habits is not something you can do overnight so make sure to set realistic goals and increase their difficulty based on your progress. The goals you will be setting have to include objectives for physical and emotional health, social well- being and especially spiritual development. Focus on small daily steps and celebrate your accomplishments.
Understand and accept your own progress. Contrary to popular belief, there is not a specific number of days required to set new habits or break old ones. Some habits are easier to stick while others might take longer. There are also people who are more habit resistant while others easily adapt to new routines. Respect your own process and be patient.
Understanding the previous statements is more important than it seems. Feeling that we are not making enough progress or achieving any important goal after the huge effort we have put on the recovering process, can make us feel frustrated and hopeless, increasing the probabilities of a relapse.