Breaking Bad Habits in Recovery
Much of recovery is spent focusing on gratitude and self-improvement along with reflections of a past complicated by addiction to inspire a greater future. Many people in recovery seek out new hobbies to promote healthier habits and help them regain social skills previously clouded by substance misuse. Still, some struggle with bad habits holding them back from achieving their ultimate recovery goals. The good news is that identifying a bad habit is the first step towards breaking one!
Pinpointing Bad Habits
Most people have more than one bad habit, but focusing on the most pressing and tackling them one at a time is the best route to take. Identifying habits that make recovery more challenging can be easier for some than others, and weighing the benefits of breaking the habit can become an inspiration to changing a deeply rooted behavior. Habits aren’t always physically harmful behaviors like smoking or overeating; sometimes, they can be psychologically damaging, like engaging in negative self-talk or preoccupation with failure. The most urgent habits are those that inhibit recovery progress and should be prioritized.
Noting the Timing
Many bad habits are an automatic response to urges or thoughts. Noticing the timing of when these habits emerge can be eye-opening and give clues as to the best way to break them. In the beginning, noting the times these habits arise, stopping and acknowledging the behavior or emotion is a great way to exercise the brain’s cognitive function and overcome past psychological issues. People mustn’t beat themselves up when they notice the habit occurring but rather congratulate themselves for being self-aware. Noting the associated feelings that come along with the habit is an integral part of the next steps in recognizing patterns.
Some habits pop up out of routine, such as lighting a cigarette when sitting in the car, while others are more closely associated with internal feelings. Nail-biting when anxious or frustrated, negative self-talk or defeatism when under pressure, and other similar scenarios highlight where the habit is embedded in a series of actions or events. Distinguishing these patterns is vital to actively and intently break the repetition of bad habits.
Identifying Driving Factors
In many cases, bad habits fulfill a more profound need or drive, but it takes a lot of self-reflection to understand the process. For some, a bad habit is a harmless coping mechanism compared to illicit substance misuse, like smoking nicotine. However, once in recovery, many patients begin to see that their nicotine consumption has become a crutch or replacement activity which can subvert recovery progress by making them more susceptible to relapse. Similarly, destructive emotional coping mechanisms can also provide negative reinforcement, a bad habit stemming from past unresolved trauma. Despite its damaging effects, engaging in the activity can still offer a form of soothing for some due to the repeated behavior over time.
Replacing Bad Habits
Once a bad habit is identified and isolated, finding a way to redirect the behavior or emotional process can begin. Those who smoke cigarettes, for example, may do so because it’s a way to socialize at the workplace or an excuse to take a break. Instead of mingling in the smoke pit, taking a walk or grabbing coffee with coworkers is a better alternative. However, replacing these behaviors can be much more challenging for those who engage in bad emotional habits. Opting for an attitude that celebrates good efforts rather than focusing on failure to achieve perfection will take time, but easing away from self-defeatism can improve resiliency and managing triggers.
Creating Reminders: Something as simple as placing sticky notes in places where bad habits most often occur can stop them from happening at a moment’s notice. Voice notes, smartphone alarms throughout the day, and reminders to remain self-aware are also small but valuable ways to promote mindfulness in the face of change.
Recording Progress: Keeping a journal of progress can be a great motivator. Recording moments where the bad habit was avoided in a tough situation or noting times where there was a significant struggle to prevent the habit is also a great way to troubleshoot further changes.
Getting Support: Changing bad habits and developing new, better habits can be more fun and easier with a partner. Using a buddy system with a trusted companion can help keep both parties accountable while encouraging each other to continue doing their best.
Recovery Services of New Mexico is committed to providing high-quality medication-assisted treatment for those with opioid use disorder. The staff at ROSNM know that a comprehensive approach is most important when treating opioid addiction, which is why patients benefit from group and individual substance use counseling while working towards their recovery goals. For more information about treatment programs, call or message us today.