With the holiday season approaching, we often talk about traditions that shape our plans over the next few months. While holidays can bring favorable events, we know these months can be especially challenging for anyone struggling with addiction. One of the ways we encourage people to change their habits is to replace addictions with new traditions. Being intentional about forming healthy habits can help addicts channel their energy in a positive way.
What makes a particular behavior become a habit? Dartmouth Assistant Professor of Brain Sciences, Dr. Kyle Smith, defines a habit as “an association that builds up between a stimulus and a response—any sort of behavioral reaction, though usually learned, to get to a goal.” Whether they be good or bad, habits form out of repeated behaviors that become like reflexes. We develop patterns in how we react to certain cues, and we thrive on the reward that follows—even if that reward is harmful.
While habits and addictions have their similarities, addictions are damaging behaviors that bring out much stronger cravings and impulses. Rather than just prompting a habitual response, addiction can paralyze someone and lead to devastating outcomes. While habits can be broken, addiction is a disease that can deteriorate a person’s body and cripple their judgment.
Recovering from addiction is a life-long recovery process. Every day presents its own unique challenges, and an addict may never feel completely out of the woods. To aid in their recovery journey, an addict should develop healthy habits to replace the energy they once put into feeding their addiction.
Take steps to create healthy traditions in place of addiction:
- Plan your success. Establish a support system. Find accountability in someone who will check in with you. Know the warning signs of relapse so that you and your support system can identify triggers or weaknesses.
- Avoid high risk situations. If you know you will be tempted in a certain environment, don’t test yourself by walking into the situation. Stay away from places or events that could impair your judgment.
- Adopt a new activity. This new habit could be an exercise plan, such as going for walks or training at the gym. It could also be a yoga or meditation practice to focus your intent. Whatever it is, find a way to integrate it into your daily routine. Since addiction is a daily battle, your healthy habit should be a daily victory.
- Reap the rewards. Find ways to measure your progress. Track your time spent on your new habit instead of your addiction. Celebrate wins like reaching fitness goals, increased energy, and number of days sober.
Whatever your current situation, use this time of year to rethink how you spend your time. If you feel on the verge of relapse, set yourself up for success by forming a healthy habit that consumes the energy that your addiction robs from you. If someone you know may be close to relapse, encourage them to turn a healthy activity into a new tradition.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, let The Walker Center help. Drug and addiction treatment is the answer. The Walker Center is the place.