Habits can be powerful.
Sometimes the power of a habit is good for us. Other times, the power of a habit is a problem.
Take, for example, a habit like brushing your teeth in the morning and before bed. The odds are good that you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about brushing your teeth. Sure, you notice when you are low on toothpaste or when your bristles are worn out. You might pay more conscious attention to tooth-brushing when you know you have a dental appointment coming up. But by and large, brushing your teeth is an activity that happens in the background of your life.
On the other side of the ledger are habits that are not nearly so healthful. Maybe you have gotten in the habit of drinking something sugary with a lot of caffeine in it to help you charge through the afternoon at work or school. It may have started as a one-time pick-me-up, but at this point, perhaps you are chugging the beverage every afternoon without much thought. You know that a bunch of sugar and caffeine is probably problematic, but you have fallen into a habit, and it’s hard to let that habit go.
Habitual use of drugs or alcohol falls into the second category of habits—the ones that create problems. In this case, the habit is especially dangerous because it creates a physical dependence: your body and brain start to believe they need the drug or alcohol to function. So, what starts as a habit turns into dependence, which, more often than not, turns into an addiction.
If you are in the grips of dependence or addiction, you need to get help right away. A fully accredited residential treatment center—like Bel Aire Recovery Center—can help you break free of the chemicals that have hijacked your system. Once you have been through treatment, you are ready to begin your recovery journey.
In recovery is where you will quickly become reminded of the power of habits. Even though you are physically free of drugs and alcohol, you will still experience cravings to return to the behaviors and rituals that accompanied the drug or alcohol use.
A Habit Is Hard to Ignore
In the early days of your recovery, you may find yourself experiencing strong cravings for drugs or alcohol—cravings that can be difficult to resist. But sometimes a momentary craving can be an easier enemy to overcome than a recurring habit.
For example, if you’re used to hanging out with friends who drink or use drugs, you might tell yourself you can still hang out with them without using substances. So you go ahead and attend the party or go to the bar. Then, you might tell yourself that it’s okay to have a little bit of whatever substance they’re indulging in–you can surely limit yourself to just occasional use, right? As you can see, succumbing to old habits can quickly put you on the path to relapse.
Or, you might have been in the habit of using drugs or alcohol whenever you felt especially sad or stressed–or whenever you felt you deserved either a reward or a celebration. If you don’t replace this habit of self-medicating with a healthier habit, you will find yourself in danger of relapse.
All of this is to say: A problematic habit doesn’t need much of a nudge to return.
Establishing New Habits Is a Good Idea
To maintain your sobriety, it is important to replace an old bad habit with productive new habits. That means setting yourself up for success by establishing healthy routines around sleep, eating, and exercising. It means having strategies in place to cope with cravings when they inevitably arise. And it means building a support network of friends you can count on when the going gets tough.
It Is Essential to Remember that Relapse Is Not the End
Bad habits have a way of sneaking back into our lives despite our best efforts to keep them at bay. That’s certainly true for those who are in recovery from a substance use disorder. While it would be wonderful if everyone who went through treatment knew they would never drink or use drugs again, the fact is that relapse is common.
But a relapse is not the end of the story. Think about that sugary, caffeinated drink we were talking about before. Maybe you went 10 days or 10 weeks or 10 months or 10 years without one, but then one day you decide to indulge. And before you know it, you are drinking those beverages regularly once again.
What’s your next move? Well, ideally, you would decide to stop again and would work toward eliminating those beverages from your routine because you know that’s what is best for your health.
The same strategy applies if you relapse. If you start drinking or using drugs again, your next move, ideally, is to return to treatment to regain your sobriety and get back on the right path.
We Are in the Habit of Helping
At Bel Aire Recovery Center, we can help you reclaim your sobriety and your life. We are committed to a continuum of care that provides support and resources during the difficult early days of recovery. And if you suffer a relapse, we will provide the same compassionate, judgment-free care to get your recovery journey restarted. We are eager to help you replace bad habits with good habits that support your ongoing sobriety.