Of the many things addicts and alcoholics have in common with those who have enabled them, the tendency to engage in numerous unhealthy habits is near the top of the list. When addiction turns into a family disease, everyone affected will develop this tendency to an almost frightening extent. And while it may be clear to others that this has happened, those of us who are constantly in the practice of feeding our unhealthy habits will often fail to see what we are doing to ourselves. But a big part of relapse prevention—whether you are attempting to prevent further substance abuse or further enabling—is learning to recognize these unhealthy habits before they become routine.
This will be easier for those who have undergone treatment, and who have the benefit of a healthy and sober support network to help assist them in their recovery. Not only does Amethyst Recovery encourage our patients to form long-lasting bonds with one another so that they may remain in contact after graduating from treatment, but we also teach patients in need of life skills training some valuable lessons that they can call upon throughout their recovery journey when they recognize their unhealthy habits beginning to surface.
Below, we will talk a bit about the skills that our patients and their families will learn during the treatment and aftercare process. To put this into context, we will compare some of these lessons to those presented in this helpful article from Psychology Today. We all have unhealthy habits to address, but those who seek help from Amethyst Recovery do not have to let these habits get the best of them.
Associating Unhealthy Habits with Consequences
One of the first lessons in the Psychology Today article linked above is the need to associate various behaviors with their usual consequences and then modify their behaviors so that these consequences may be avoided (or encouraged, in the case of healthier behaviors). One of the author’s primary examples is his tendency to get distracted by random information on the internet while writing. To avoid this, he has set a rule for himself that when he writes on his desktop computer, he does not surf the internet—even to check his email. This prevents him from encountering distractions.
Those who get sober will have to set similar rules for themselves. Early in our treatment continuum, patients undergo therapy in which they must identify the consequences of their addiction. With these consequences in mind, it will be easier to understand their triggers and how to avoid them. Some people may be triggered by dating in early recovery, while just about all patients will likely be triggered if they enter a bar without a good social cause for being there. If they must enter an establishment which serves alcohol for some sort of work-related function, they must learn how to avoid their triggers by, for example, keeping a glass of water in their hands at all times. If they have identified the ways in which their unhealthy habits have hurt their careers, then they will have a rather strong motivation to stick with this rule.
Most of the unhealthy habits we must avoid in early recovery are those which result in extreme emotional disturbance, regardless of whether this disturbance causes us to experience extreme highs or extreme lows. Friends and family members will have to avoid emotional disturbance in a similar manner. If they become too fearful that the addict needs their help, or if they become too confident that the addict’s recovery is infallible, they may be prone to repeat previous enabling behaviors. Having already had to send their loved one to treatment once, they should have a decent idea as to where these sorts of unhealthy habits will lead.
While it is important to avoid unhealthy behaviors, this sort of task association should also be used to enforce behaviors that aid us in recovery. If we know that meetings help strengthen our resolve to remain sober, we should not start skipping them. If we find that practicing our religion is helpful in maintaining the spiritual aspect of sobriety, then we should engage in religious activities when possible. Calling our sponsors, reading recovery-based literature, talking to friends in support groups such as AA or NA (or Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, for the family members) are all healthy behaviors that we should attempt to reinforce.
Deciding Which Life Skills Are Most Important
We noted above that our unhealthy habits have likely hurt our careers at some point. Even friends and family members may encounter issues with their jobs or finances if they have constantly had to leave work or spend money they didn’t have in order to bail their addicted loved one out of a jam. In order to cease these unhealthy habits and begin undoing the harm they have caused, we must learn to focus upon certain life skills that we may have previously neglected.
Often, we will find that we have developed numerous other unhealthy habits during active addiction that may be harder to break. Depending upon our substance of choice, some of us may have made some pretty unhealthy dietary choices. In such cases, our love of fast food or instant noodles became part of the substance abuse ritual. If we have so neglected our nutrition, then we may wish to undo the harm of our previous unhealthy habits by maintaining a stronger focus on balanced diet and exercise while in recovery.
A good rule of thumb for developing life skills that will help us from returning to our unhealthy habits is to work on our social skills at the same time. If we fill our support network with people who are trying to make the same life changes as us, then we can work with one another and keep each other from slipping. If our goal is to be healthier, we may try exercising with a partner. If our goal is to find a better job, we might call upon a friend with a similar objective and compare resumes with one another. Just as sobriety itself, the quest to defeat our unhealthy habits is one that becomes much easier when we have a little backup.
Choosing the life skills that matter most will largely depend upon which unhealthy habits you are trying to avoid. Identify which unhealthy habits played the largest role in your lifestyle while in addiction, and go from there. Since Amethyst Recovery offers personalized care, we will be able to help greatly in this regard. This depends upon our patients’ honesty, but those who truly wish to get sober should find that being open and honest about the lifestyle and the character defects from which they would like to recover will come naturally in time.
Learning to Alter Your Routine Appropriately
This is where the above two steps meet in the middle to form the bigger picture of recovery. We are not just trying to refrain from drinking or abusing drugs—we are trying to improve our life until the compulsion to engage in these unhealthy habits has vanished from our minds. To do this, we need to establish the best possible lives for ourselves. This will require the development and maintenance of a healthy and sober routine.
One of the first steps in our full continuum of care is day/night care, in which patients must live by a healthy routine in order to succeed. After patients have graduated from this level of care, they will have a bit more freedom. But if patients are dedicated to the cause of sobriety, they may find that it helps to seek temporary residence in our sober living facilities. Residents will have much more freedom than they had when in treatment, but they will still be required to follow certain rules that make it rather difficult to engage in too many unhealthy habits. Not only that, but they will have the social benefits we described above. It’s a wonderful step toward long-term sobriety, as our residents are able to develop their own routines while still reaping the benefits of living within a larger recovery community.
According to the Psychology Today article we have mentioned above, a healthy routine should result in positive triggers. The author writes that he has little rituals that mark the end of the work day, after which he cleans. He also has rituals for waking up. When one activity is always followed by another, it becomes easier to follow our routine over time. For instance, always going to a meeting after work or on your lunch break will make it easier to ensure you never skip one, because it will be attached to another routine that you must complete on a daily basis. Using this sort of reinforcement technique makes it much easier to replace unhealthy habits with positive ones.
Whichever technique you utilize to break your unhealthy habits and leave healthier behaviors in their wake, ensure that you do not let up. We should always be striving to improve. If our unhealthy habits begin to resurface and we do not do what we can to keep them in check, we may be prone to repeat our substance abusing or enabling behaviors. With the help of Amethyst Recovery, addicts and family members alike can receive the tools they need to finally put these dangerous habits to rest. For more information, contact us today.