The After Party: Building a New Life in Recovery, Part I

(This 3-part series on building good habits, finding balance and working toward good health is adapted
from chapter 12 of “Sex, Drugs, Gambling and Chocolate,” by Tom Horvath, Ph.D, ABPP)

The Six Pillars of Building Good Habits

“You can build a new life that is even more satisfying than life with your addiction.”
– Tom Horvath

Man in recovery celebratingSo you’ve gotten through the acute withdrawal phase of recovery, dealt with immediate craving issues and have decided to take your recovery to the next level. Now what?

Well, it’s time to rebuild your life. Just leaving the addiction behind isn’t enough – it’s time to start looking at how you can fill the void – that empty space that was once filled by addiction. For some, this may be exciting; a new life by design. For others, this may feel a little overwhelming, daunting even. Whether you’re motivated or intimidated, or somewhere in between, Dr. Horvath’s book discusses 3 concepts that will help set you up for success: build good habits, find balance and develop good health habits. This week, we’ll be taking a look at building good habits.

1. Find Models and Teachers

Not only do we learn behaviors, skills and habits from others, we also discover which ones we want to learn. By watching others and asking questions, you can determine what to do (and not do!) to accomplish your goals and honor your values. Choose your models wisely, then study them and incorporate their influence in a way that works for you.

2. Take Small Steps

It’s better to make lasting changes slowly, than to make huge changes that don’t stick. Build each new skill or habit one step at a time. Let’s say a new skill you would like to develop is being assertive with others. You might start with finding a model and watching them for a while to see what being assertive looks like. Then you might read a book to learn how to become assertive yourself. Then you might try consciously asserting yourself with those you trust. Once that feels natural, you might try being assertive with those you find more intimidating.

Be aware of the tools you already have and also figure out what you need help with. Enlist the help of others, keep studying and be patient with yourself. Becoming skilled with something or changing a behavior takes effort, practice and time – but you will get there!

3. Be Persistent

You’ll probably find that in the first month or two of a new habit, daily attention is needed. This is a natural part of the process. Sometimes when we look at others that have the skills we want, it looks effortless for them. When something so difficult for you looks so easy for someone else, it’s easy to get discouraged and decide to quit. Just remember you can only get to that auto- pilot level with regular repetition. Do not give up!

4. Be Mindful

It is not enough to just go through the motions of developing skills and habits. You must carefully consider every step taken. Study the details and think about where things are headed. To use the example of becoming more assertive, let’s say you notice you’re becoming more abrupt or abrasive than you intended. If you are mindful of this, you might question whether it’s your tone, your approach, your language, etc. Find out what adjustments you could make, then adjust, assess and repeat!

5. Stay Motivated by Maintaining Perspective

You might stumble a few (or many!) times – and that’s ok! As long as your day-to-day life is consistent with your goals and values, you are in fact working on the vision you have for yourself. If you start to lose motivation, remember the reasons you decided to change. Remember where you were and compare it to where you are now, and trust in the process. Most importantly, remember that although there may be discomfort involved with building habits and skills, that discomfort is worth it because it allows you to accomplish your goals. Hang in there and keep a long-term perspective to help you with the discomfort you’re facing.

6. Make a Pledge

While this suggestion is commonly mentioned in the context of changing a habit Dr. Horvath suggests you might want to be careful. For some, making a pledge can be helpful, while for others it may lead to thinking that changing a behavior is being done to please others. If you do choose to make a pledge, make sure it isn’t counterproductive to your goal. Most likely, making a pledge works best when trying to develop socially approved behaviors versus overcoming socially disapproved behaviors.

There you have it – the six pillars of building good habits. You might decide you can tackle a new skill or behavior on your own, with the help of these guidelines. Keep in mind, however, that there is no shame in seeking help, whether from a trusted friend or a trained professional, such as a relapse prevention therapist. Practical Recovery offers several options that can help you build good habits and create the life you want. No matter which route you take to get there, enjoy the journey and believe in yourself!

Need help creating the life you want? Call us today! 1-800-977-6110

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