Does Behavior Have to Change to Stay Sober?

Recovery is a lifelong journey. Although it starts with abstinence, there are many other changes that people must make in order to stay the course. Far more than just a show of willpower, recovery is an ongoing effort to adopt new, healthy behaviors. If you’ve been struggling to quit using drugs or alcohol, learning more about the nature of addiction is important.

Currently recognized as a chronic mental disorder, addiction affects how the brain functions, the decisions that people make, and how they cope with stress. Until you’re able to adopt the right behaviors for maintaining a life of sobriety, you’ll always be at an elevated risk of relapsing. In addiction treatment, people often take part in various forms of behavioral therapy. Not only is behavioral therapy designed to teach better behaviors, but it additionally aims to show patients why they behave as they do.

For instance, many addicts started using drugs in an effort to fit in. Their need to please others is largely rooted in low self-esteem. Feelings of low self-worth can contribute to addiction in other ways. If you don’t believe that you’re worthy of good health, happiness, meaningful relationships, and regular self-care, engaging in various forms of self-abuse become second nature. It is not uncommon for recovering addicts to struggle with repressed emotions, past traumas, and negative behavioral conditioning. Thus, in rehab, patients are given the skills, tools, and other resources they need for adopting healthy mindsets and establishing habits that allow for safe, sober, and sustainable lifestyles.

Which Behaviors Have to Change in Addiction Recovery?

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are a huge issue among those who struggle with addiction. Whenever people who are in the habit of maintaining negative thought patterns attempt something new, they discourage themselves from trying before they even get started. This is known as defeatist thinking and it is frequently rooted in negative behavioral conditioning that occurred early in life. It is virtually impossible to effect major changes in your life when you don’t believe that you’re capable of seeing them through, and when you do not feel worthy of experiencing the benefits that they’ll provide.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy in addiction treatment will help you identify and correct negative thinking before it stops you from accomplishing your goals. Addiction conditions the brain to want and expect immediate gratification. When people feel uncomfortable, they look for ways to change their mindsets and their emotions right away. It often feels easier to reach for alcohol or drugs when you’re unhappy than it does to invest the effort to actually change your circumstances.

In recovery, your desire to experience immediate gratification or immediate relief must change too. In part, the expectation for immediate gratification will gradually abate as you detox and as your brain heals. However, behavioral therapy bolsters these improvements by teaching people greater distress tolerance and improving their stress management skills. All addicts also have to make some changes in how they interact socially. It may never be safe for you to visit a bar or nightclub with your friends again.

Certain friends may no longer be safe to hang out with. Fortunately, you’ll find that many people in your life are supportive of your recovery and happy to spend time with you in other ways. Those who are not and those who are still actively using substances may no longer have a place in your life at all. As you move further away from who you were in addiction and closer to the person you want to be, you’ll likely find that you have very little in common with old friends apart from the substances you once used.

You’ll also begin forming bonds with people who have similar interests and goals, and who fit right into your new, healthier lifestyle. Changing behaviors in recovery to minimize the risk of relapsing isn’t just about letting old habits and relationships go. It’s also important to add a generous array of new activities, friendships, and behaviors in. You’ll have to spend more time caring for yourself, listening to your body, and prioritizing your own needs. Ultimately, you’ll find that your new sober life is far richer, far more enjoyable, and infinitely more rewarding than your life as a substance user.

If you need help changing your behaviors in recovery, you’re definitely not alone. Going to rehab is a great way to adopt the life habits that will help you avoid relapse. Call 833-820-2922 to explore your options in local or out-of-state addiction treatment. Our counselors are always standing by.