The Psychology Behind Breaking Bad Habits
As humans, we are constantly challenged to steer clear of developing bad habits so that we can live a long, healthy life. Drinking, drugs, and gambling are just a few vices people regularly succumb to, and for most people breaking these habits can become quite the challenge. Yes, bad habits and addictions can be tough to break, but the chances for success increase dramatically when you learn the psychology behind changing life patterns and behaviors for better future outcomes.
Examining drug and alcohol addiction
Have you ever wondered why so many people determined to quit drinking and drugs end up going right back to their old habits? This can be especially frustrating when the person completes an inpatient drug/alcohol program and appears to be on a better path in life, then suddenly takes a turn for the worse and returns to his unhealthy ways of using again. Why do so many people, determined and with the best intentions, so quickly forget everything they learned in rehab? In fact, it is not uncommon to see relapse when following people after rehab — but why? We know they want a better life, and in many cases they have flushed all the chemicals out of their body and no longer experience any physiological dependence — so why do so many people still fail?
Human beings are complex, and there are no easy answers to the previous question, but we do know there are a few important considerations when trying to understand the psychology relating to why a person would go back to his or her old, bad ways.
- Understand the reasons why one developed the bad habit. When we use drugs and alcohol, or engage in other unhealthy and potentially dangerous behaviors, the primary reason why we do these things is to provide an escape from what is happening in our moment-to-moment life. In other words, we regularly use drinking, drugs, gambling, and other potentially dangerous behaviors as ways to cope with stress. When we are drunk, we don’t think much about our problems, and this is a big reason why people drink. If you do not understand your vulnerabilities to stress, you are very likely to eventually go right back to the old, poor ways of coping.
- No scaffolding set up to rise from the bad decisions from the past. When a person finishes inpatient treatment, he or she usually returns home. The problem, however, is when home is exactly as the person left it, including the same temptations prior to treatment. Without a job, school, new surroundings and/or new people to befriend, the odds for going back to one’s old ways increases dramatically. Getting sober is one thing, but moving on from old routines and patterns can be really tough when the individual returns right back to where all the problems began in the first place.
Overcoming a bad habit is never easy, but you can greatly increase your odds for success by understanding both what made you vulnerable to the habit initially, and what things will be changed and improved upon once you overcome the habit. The opposite is also true — you are much more likely to relapse if you do not develop better coping skills to deal with stress, and if you go right back into the same settings that lead to the habit in the first place.