Bad habits. Who doesn’t have them? I’d even admit that I like some of my bad habits. I’m definitely in no rush to cure them. There are those, however, that are much more problematic than others. Those often need to be attended to before they cause real damage. But, let’s back up and start at the beginning.  

What is a bad habit

A bad habit is a patterned behavior that has proven to be detrimental to the physical or mental health of a person. 
 

What Causes Bad Habits in Recovery

Many things cause bad habits in recovery. To begin with, let’s remember that people in recovery are already starting with an addictive personality. An addictive personality usually includes character traits like impulse control problems, problems managing stress, and being drawn to deviant behavior and nonconformity. 

Recovery can sometimes feel boring and that it’s a far cry from the exciting, sometimes dangerous, lifestyle of addition and alcoholism. Getting used to normal takes practice so it’s easy to stray in the beginning when life feels so mundane. 

Some people also feel very stuck in recovery. That’s another feeling that addicts and alcoholics are unused to experiencing and can find very uncomfortable. This is an easy time to return to, or find new, bad habits. 

Let’s not forget the other bad habits that form over the years 

All the other bad behaviors. Just because someone has given up the drinking and using, doesn’t come close to meaning all the other bad behaviors automatically go away. Some people get sober to find they have other addictive behaviors with food, sex and love, money, shopping, gambling—you name it. But it takes time to be able to deal with everything and staying sober is enough of a challenge at the beginning. Many people wait until they have some solid, sober time before they begin working on other bad habits and that’s a good idea! 

Lack of inspiration, motivation and growth mindset. Some people think that abstinence is the answer and there doesn’t need to be work done beyond that. That may work for some people, but it doesn’t necessarily create a fulfilling, healthy lifestyle. Making positive changes across the board in your life is what usually leads to a satisfying, healthy life. Keep striving to better in all facets of your life. 

 
Accountability is something many people learn about in recovery. It’s definitely not something addicts and alcoholics are good at. When people get into recovery, they learn to look at their behavior and how it affects themselves and other people. If people aren’t taught about accountability and responsibility in recovery, if they aren’t observant and paying attention to what they are doing, they can fall right back into bad habits like eating too much junk food after a weight gain. Being observant and accountable is critical to keeping the bad habits at bay. 

10 ways to banish bad habits:  

  1. Deal with bad habits one at a time: It’s important to deal with breaking one bad habit at a time. If you are trying to deal with too many things at once, you’ll get spread too thin and fall to temptation. 
  2. Stay away from any temptations that feed into your bad habits: If going to the movies makes you want to have butter popcorn and candy and you’re trying to follow a diet to stop bad eating habits, don’t go to the movies at first. Use your common sense and don’t do activities that promote the bad behavior until you’ve got it under control. 
  3. Learn your bad habit triggers: To change bad habits, you must understand why you do them and what triggers them. Record information whenever you feel the desire to do your bad habit or if you catch yourself already doing it. Write down how you felt, where you were, who you were with, and what you were you doing. Over time you can identify what triggers your bad habit. 
  4. Make changes once you know your triggers: Once you begin to see the pattern of where, how, and why your bad habit urges arise, you can start to make changes. If you find that your triggers are happening every time you’re in a certain spot, it’s time to stop going to that spot. If you can’t fully the trigger like if you are feeling angry, then try the 20 Minute rule. This is where you tell yourself that even though a trigger has occurred, you’re going to give it 20 minutes to see if the urge goes away.  
  5. Don’t Go Cold Turkey: While going cold turkey might work for some, it’s based on the emphasis of perfection.  When you quit cold turkey and can’t do it this creates a feeling of defeat. Then instead of taking each day at a time, you decide that you might as well binge on your habit. This can cause you to take part in the habit more than you had before. 
  6. Replace old bad habits with new good ones: If you do something when you are stressed, find a new healthy activity to do in place of the old one. This is not easy and takes practice, but it works. If you’re used to going to a bar after work for destress drinks, try finding a gym, sport, yoga, meditation class, whatever activity you can do to replace a bad habit with a good one. 
  7. Mindfulness and meditation can be good for helping people come to grips with bad habits and overcoming them. If you have a meditation studio in your city, look at what classes they offer because they may have something just for this. If not, look on youtube or do some research to find an app or online guided meditation that will work for you. 
  8. Journal: Write about it. Whatever it is you’re dealing with. Write about how you feel every day, write about your questions and concerns, write down reasons why giving up the bad habit will positively affect your life. Just keep writing. 
  9. Using Affirmations can help to overcome bad habits. This involves making positive statements in order to increase motivation to achieve your goal. This another tip where it helps to do some research and find the correct affirmations for what you’re trying to achieve. Want to make more money? Use an abundance meditation. Want more confidence? Use an esteem-builder affirmation. They can all be found online! 
  10. Tell others about the decision to break a habit. These individuals will then be able to offer encouragement and hold you accountable for giving up this habit. This can also give you more motivation not to quit or give up. There’s something very special about saying something out loud to another person. 

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Haley Laferney
Haley Laferney is the graphic designer at Reach Out Recovery and a graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design. She is also a gold and silver ADDY award winner.

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