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Overcoming Bad Habits In Recovery

Overcoming bad habits is all about mindset.

Addiction is all about bad habits.

In fact, the addiction itself is a habit of drinking or using drugs – to the point that it’s harmful. Someone might have a habit of biting their nails and it may not be problematic. But if their nails are gone and their fingertips are bleeding then there may be both medical and psychological concerns.

The same is true with addiction – It’s a habit that’s gotten worse. The habit of drinking and using drugs can come with other bad habits too, including smoking, emotional re-activity, and impulsive behavior.

Overcoming Bad Habits

Other habits that can come with addiction include:

  • social withdrawal
  • denial
  • hiding or minimizing unhealthy behavior
  • beliefs about low self worth and self esteem
  • rebelliousness
  • alienating others from oneself
  • inability to delay immediate gratification
  • insecurity in relationships and in social interactions
  • using drugs and alcohol to avoid uncomfortable feelings
  • powerlessness and enabling others

These are some unhealthy habits and maladaptive behaviors that can result from substance use and even contribute to substance use. However, it should be pointed out that addiction shouldn’t be reduced to a habit alone – despite the analogy used above. Most habits can be transformed and changed within a couple of weeks. But because addiction has a psychological component to it, some people struggle for months and even years with addiction. Although it could be considered a habit in the most simplistic sense, it is also much more than that.

In fact, because some of the behaviors and thinking patterns of addiction are indeed habitual, addiction treatment aims to help a person identify the root causes of these patterns. For instance, let’s say a woman in her 50’s has been struggling with alcoholism for most of her life. She had a rough childhood which included physical abuse and witnessing domestic violence between her parents. As she got older, she began to use alcohol as a way to feel good about herself, and in many cases it worked! But the alcoholism got worse and she continued to drink. When she finally got sober, she began to participate in therapy which invited her to explore the thinking patterns behind her cravings to drink.

Through many weeks in therapy, she was able to uncover that she yearns for alcohol when she has feelings of self-hatred and shame, which she began to feel as a child. Over time, drinking alcohol became the coping tool that she used to push those feelings away. There are a few habits that she developed throughout the course of her life. First, she developed the habit of choosing to drink in order to feel better. Second, she developed the habit of pushing her feelings away making it more and more difficult to face the emotional discomfort each time those feelings resurfaced. Third, she developed the biological habit of having alcohol in her physical system. Her body and brain came to depend upon the alcohol, which had an effect on her physical and psychological well being.

For these reasons and more, addiction treatment includes a variety of modalities so that all aspects of the illness are address. This includes psychotherapy, support groups, medication (when necessary), and 12-step meetings. If you’re struggling with the illness of addiction, contact a mental health provider for support.

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