12 SMART Tips For Breaking Bad Habits
Become Aware Of Your Habits
Human beings are creatures of habit. By nature, our brains learn a certain way of doing something and stick to it. In order for us to change and do something differently, we have to interrupt our brain’s impulse to use automatic responses until the new way of doing something takes hold. Repetition is key. Being mindfully aware of how you’re feeling and what you’re doing helps new behaviors to establish and grow. Eventually, your improved behaviors become the new ‘normal’.
2. Focus On One Habit At A Time
Preventing burn-out starts with setting realistic expectations for yourself. We suggest that you avoid a ‘flight to health’ mentality in addiction recovery. If you’ve only been in a recovery for a little while and are suddenly sober, vegan, and spend 7 days a week at the gym: take caution! The true essence of success in recovery is based off of your ability to make positive, long-term lifestyle changes. Creating sustainable change takes time and concentrated effort. Take one thing at a time, one day at a time.
3. Stay Motivated
Find ways to jumpstart your brain every day. Infuse your daily life with small and effective indicators that keep you focused on self care and recovery. From daily quotes to journaling, taking the time to remind yourself to stay positive and persevere pays off big time. Staying excited about recovery means staying excited about you. Let 100 little moments of joy cheer you forward. Create a life that makes it possible.
4. Replace Lost Needs
Depravation is the OPPOSITE of recovery. For every negative thing that you take away from your life, add something better back! It may feel like your entire life has changed, and it probably has but that’s a great thing! Some things will remain the same though and it’s important to consider them. You still need to have friendships and socialize. The need for having fun and going places will still exist. After you distance yourself from friends that use, don’t forget to make some new friends. Socialization helps to stave off depression, especially in early recovery when the magnitude of change feels the most uncomfortable. Fear not! When you want to get out and have some fun there are still a lot of options like getting involved in your community, going bowling, or finding something uniquely YOU that rewards you with a sense of accomplishment and gratification.
5. Make An ‘INSTEAD’ Plan
If your family and friends are embarking on a night out that just isn’t right for you, have a back up plan ready to go. We’re proud of you for being in recovery and we bet that they are too! However, this doesn’t mean that your loved ones have to change everything about their own lives to accommodate your new goals, and it’s common that they don’t. Although this can be frustrating, having a back up plan is your go-to coping strategy. Instead of feeling resentful, have a list of activities that you can default to in a quick change of plans. From calling a sober friend and heading to the movie theater to cleaning out your closet or taking an online cooking class, there are a ton of options out there. Identify things that YOU would like to make time for and get excited about finding the time to conquer them.
6. Avoid Triggers When You Can
The truth is, triggers exist everywhere. Learning to cope when confronted with triggers is a skill that you strengthen over time. Purposefully ignoring your triggers and engaging with certain people, places, and things however, will set you back from your recovery goals. It’s not worth it. Recovery is about tackling problems head on and refusing to create new layers of problems. A solution-focused attitude serves you well. Don’t kid yourself that going to a party where everyone is using won’t entice you to use….it WILL. There may come a day where you can be around using and it won’t effect you, but the first year of recovery isn’t a good time to tempt your fate. It’s not about resolve. Even people who remain sober for years start experiencing difficulty if they fall into patterns that have them consistently surrounded by use. Your mind will try to play tricks on you and justify this; don’t let it. Your recovery is worth more than a few nights out feeding your ego. It’s your life that’s at stake here in the long run. If you can avoid some major triggers, why wouldn’t you.
7. Practice New Habits
Treatment and recovery teach you a lot of new skills and information. As you put these new concepts and activities into use, be patient with yourself. A skill develops with time and practice. An excellent way to reinforce these things is to use them as often as you can. Practice new communication skills by calling a friend, or speaking at your next meeting. Use your deep breathing and meditation skills when you’re waiting in a long line rather than allowing yourself to get irritated. It’s only by repeatedly going through the motions that your skills and habits have time to strengthen. Every day is full of endless opportunities for this. Remember: If you don’t use it, you lose it.
8. Record Your Progress
Recovery is a big deal. Going to meetings regularly helps you to keep tabs on your sober time and celebrates milestones, but there are other ways to positively reinforce your efforts as well. If you continue to set small, actionable goals and keep track of your progress - you’ll have a lot to feel good about. We may be able to see and feel the great benefits of recovery at times, but it’s not always as clear, and sometimes its good to have a reminder of how well you’re doing. Every time that you attend 4 counseling sessions, make a week’s worth of meetings, or make it through the grocery store without picking up any contraband - it’s cause for a reward! Figure out how to reasonably reward yourself for the goals that you meet and make it happen. Keep momentum up for feeling good about staying the path!
9. Use Rewards To Keep Yourself On Track
Tip 8 got you started but let’s talk about what kind of reward system is really going to work for you. From setting money back for a trip to getting your nails done, you need to have specific rewards in mind. Write down your desired goal, right along with your progress. You know what makes sobriety worth it for you. Make it work for you.
10. Build In Accountability
The first step in accountability is achieved by finding and maintaining a sponsor once you’re out of treatment but it doesn’t stop there. Let’s face it: the real accountability starts with you. Download a recovery app to your phone to keep up with your achievements.
It’s easy to feel a little grumpy in the midst of all this change, but don’t let that feeling stick around. You may have done a lot of experimenting in your life that didn’t work out too well, but this kind of experimenting will teach you more about yourself and help you grow as a person. Think of things that you’ve never tried before like hiking, learning to play an instrument, or visiting some place you’ve never been and GO FOR IT! Recovery is a time in your life that is filled with many healthy possibilities. Get out there and find out what you love.
12. Get Back On Track
Slips and relapses do not have to happen, but sometimes they do. Hopefully, you’re growing attuned enough to yourself to shut down potential slips and relapses the second that you notice your thoughts taking a nose-dive. Just in case you don’t and instead find yourself riddled with guilt and sinking into despair, remember; there’s still time! Immediately, call your sponsor and/or therapist. Reach out to supportive family and friends and get to a meeting as soon as possible. These events can give you deeper clues into what causes you to act on impulse and use. Let them be something that you learn from instead of an excuse to continue back down the rabbit hole.