Whether you’ve recently left rehab or have been in recovery for some time, relapse is always a risk. Taking the time and care to build good habits revolving around keeping your mental and physical health in a good place, helping you to cope with cravings, and building a support network so that when you do experience problems, you have somewhere to turn, will help you to stay clean and sober for the long-term. Unfortunately, many people get out of rehab and go back into the same conditions and life problems that caused addiction and drug abuse in the first place. This can easily result in building bad habits and coping mechanisms which will affect your ability to stay clean and sober over the long-term.
These 7 bad habits will affect your recovery but learning how to spot and work around them before they become problematic will help you to stay clean and sober. Most importantly, even if you’re doing one or all of them, making changes to your behavior and habits will help you to get back on the right track and reduce your risk of relapse.
1) Not Taking Care of Your Health
Your physical and mental health are both important and they will dramatically affect your mood, well-being, and ability to respond to cravings. People who come out of recovery often attempt to push themselves, trying too hard to do everything at once, and end up exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed. This very easily results in a relapse. In other cases, you may let your physical health lapse by not eating right, exercising too much or not enough (30-60 minutes per day is ideal), or even not sleeping enough. Each of these habits will affect dopamine and serotonin production in your brain, your energy levels, and your ability to handle stress. If you feel bad and stressed all the time because of poor health, you will eventually relapse.
At the same time, persons who are in recovery following a long-term drug or alcohol addiction are doubly prone to nutrition deficiencies due to gastrointestinal problems. Nutritional deficiencies can cause severe illness and can mimic depression and anxiety, making it difficult to recovery well. Building good habits around nutrition and exercise is crucial to your long-term recovery.
2) Slipping Back into Old Routines and Habits
Most people eventually move back into their old home or apartment, often have the same friends, and sometimes go to the same places. This makes it easy to slip back into old routines, especially harmful ones such as not doing anything, going to a bar with friends and family, or even watching television for hours instead of something that would be better for your mental or physical health. Old routines will remind you of what you’re not doing, they will likely put you in the same state of mind as when you were using, and you will be more likely to relapse when in the places and surrounded by the people you used to drink or use around.
3) Not Going to Meetings
Whether you attend AA, NA, SMART Recovery, or any other self-help recovery group, meetings are there to keep you accountable and to give you an outlet. When people stop, they often do so for a two-fold reason of thinking they don’t need it, which can be overconfidence, and sometimes because they want to use and don’t want to be held accountable, even if they haven’t admitted it to themselves.
12-step and other recovery groups work when people attend meetings and continue to do so, because they give you social accountability, friends, and people that you look up to. Not attending your meetings is an extremely bad habit, because it will take that away and make you more likely to slip up and relapse.
4) Not Calling Your Sponsor
Your sponsor is there to talk you through cravings, to give you advice, and to help you make the right decisions when it’s needed. When you stop calling him or her for advice and help, you’re likely purposely putting yourself in a position where you won’t be held accountable and you won’t need support and help from others. It can also be painful and difficult to put yourself in a position of vulnerability, such as when admitting that you have cravings, want to use, or did use. Talking to your sponsor can be difficult and discussing problems like cravings can feel like letting them down, so many people build bad habits of keeping things to themselves rather than talking it out. This will make you more likely to relapse, even if it’s because you don’t have the support you need when you do need it.
5) Withdrawing from Friends and Family
Your friends and family likely want the best for you but interacting with them after an addiction can be painful and difficult. In addition to the fact that they likely helped you into recovery and therefore have very high expectations regarding your behavior and ability to stay clean or sober, you may be experiencing feelings of guilt and shame over your drug or alcohol abuse and possibly your behavior while addicted. Like with other forms of withdrawal, withdrawing from friends and family can also mean that you’ve faced a triggering moment and are preparing to use or drink again and are therefore subconsciously isolating yourself from the people you feel most accountable to.
Keeping your friends and family close and being honest with them will help you to build a support network capable of helping you to avoid relapse. Friends and family will offer emotional support, will listen to you, will hold you accountable, and can help you through periods by giving you physical support as well.
6) Making Excuses to Yourself
When you slip up, make mistakes, experience cravings, or otherwise fail to meet your own expectations and standards for yourself, it’s important to hold yourself accountable. Making excuses for your own behavior puts you in a position where you allow yourself to use later to relieve stress, because you deserve it, or otherwise because you fail to hold yourself accountable. For example, “just this once”, “I deserve this”, “I had a long day, it’s okay”, etc., will build a habit of allowing yourself to take liberties with yourself.
While you do need to give yourself space to recover, you have to do so in a structured way, where you have defined ways to relax, destress, and give yourself time out or a break. This will help you to prevent using drugs or alcohol as a reward or self-medication for stress and negative emotions, because you won’t be able to make excuses for yourself if you do experience cravings.
7) Not Building Coping Mechanisms for Stress
Stress is one of the primary causes of relapse and addiction and managing it properly will greatly improve your physical and mental health. If you’ve been to a rehabilitation program, chances are that a large focus of the program was to help you manage and control stress. Many clinics use science-based therapies including cognitive behavioral and mindfulness alongside counseling to help patients recognize the source of stress, behavioral responses contributing to stress, and to develop skills and coping mechanisms to actively deal with stress. Letting that training lapse, or not using stress management techniques because you weren’t in a rehab program that taught you those skills is a huge mistake. Recovery will cause a lot of stress, you will face stress at work and from family, cravings and triggers will create even more problems, and you won’t be able to fall back on old ways to relax, like using. Developing good stress management habits is crucial to maintaining your mental health and staying clean or sober.
No matter where you are in recovery, working to build healthy habits is important if you want to stay in recovery. Getting help from friends and family, making a habit of going to group and talking to your sponsor, and building habits to support your physical and mental health are among the most crucial of those.
If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today and feel free to talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.