How To Create Healthy Habits to Support Addiction Recovery

Anyone who has struggled with substance use disorder will attest that it often begins with a single habit. Regular consumption of a substance—be it alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs—is what starts one down the slippery slope toward dependency. This dependency can lead to addiction, making what was once a casual occurrence, a serious issue that heavily impairs their ability to function. Over time, these habits seem to multiply as one replaces old healthy habits (such as time spent with family and friends) with new, unhealthy habits that support their addiction. 

This is why it can be so helpful to know how habits emerge and how they work. Addiction may develop as deeply-ingrained habits form new neural pathways as a result of substance abuse. Learn more about the science of habit formation below, and find out how you can change your habits to live a healthier, happier life. 

The Science of How Habits Work 

In the past two decades, our understanding of the neurology and psychology behind habit formation has expanded a hundred-fold. Scientists now know how habits emerge, how they change, and the science behind their mechanics. They also know quite a bit about how to replace old habits with new ones, and how to ensure the old one’s don’t linger—causing them to return in place of the new ones we’ve grown. 

According to the latest science, all habits include 3 basic components: a cue that triggers the habit, a routine or the action itself, and the reward you get for doing it. For a regular smoker, just the sight of cigarettes (the cue) is often enough for them to physically crave nicotine, leading them to light up a cigarette (the routine), thereby acquiring the physical pleasure of nicotine (the reward). This is how all habits work, from smokers who crave cigarettes to caffeine drinkers who reach for a cup of coffee first thing each day. 

How To Replace Old Habits With New Ones By Changing Your Environment 

One way to replace an ingrained habit with a new habit is to change your environment. Avoid exposing yourself to the same cues that trigger the unhealthy habit. If you typically like to catch the big game in a bar, try hosting a booze-free watch party instead. By changing your environment, you will not be as easily tempted to perform the same routine, and can also experience an entirely new, but no less pleasurable, reward. 

For an avid smoker, this may look like changing how you spend time with friends, or hanging out with non-smoking friends who support your decision to quit. By socializing in environments where you are not tempted to reach for a cigarette—perhaps, by exercising or going out for a bite to eat—you can still get a reward, without the cigarette. 

By finding ways to spend your time that do not include the triggers and temptations that cause you to want to drink or use, you can begin to change, and, over time, overcome your habit for good. 

How To Replace Old Habits With New Ones By Changing Your Routines 

Another way to change a habit is to perform an entirely different routine when you feel triggered. Again, this might look like reconfiguring how you spend your time and your life. For instance, if you typically enjoy a night cap, try replacing the alcohol with a cup of tea or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage instead. If you smoke a cigarette first thing in the morning, replace this routine by getting a workout in or going for a walk instead. Try modifying your routine in response to unhealthy cues, to find out a new and healthy routine that best works for you. It will take effort and time, but you can gradually replace your habit with a new one that’s both gratifying and good for you. 

Consider A Residential Addiction Treatment Program 

In some instances, changing your habit is simply not enough to fight the disease of addiction. Many substances are so addictive that it can feel impossible to quit. Moreover, when dealing with a substance use disorder, even if you do change your environment and your daily habits, you may still face the potential deadly symptoms of withdrawal. For these reasons, consider a residential treatment program that can help you build new habits and support you in your decision to quit in a safe and healthy environment. 

The Last Resort provides residential addiction treatment programs that enable men to recover from their substance use disorder in a supportive and structured environment that is distraction-free. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and find out if they are a good fit for you.