5 Steps To Create Healthy Habits To Beat Addiction

March 3, 2021
Create Healthy Habits To Beat Addiction

Taking your life back from addiction can be challenging.

However, with commitment and the right knowledge and support, you can replace those old habits with new, healthy habits.

Some substances are too dangerous to quit without assistance because severe withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening in some instances.

Consult your doctor or an addiction specialist to get a recommendation for your situation.

Applying Healthy Habits During Drug and Alcohol Recovery

Creating new habits is a long-term process. It’s essential to keep the goal in mind while making small changes on a daily or weekly basis.

Your reason to keep working to build a better life (your “why”) is what will keep you going even when you experience setbacks.

Focusing on small daily steps, creating new habits a little bit at a time, will make the changes more likely to stick and begin the transformation you seek.


Most experts agree habits are formed and maintained through a repetitive pattern referred to as a habit loop. In general, this breaks down into three steps:

  1. Cue: The trigger or reminder that initiates the habitual behavior.
  2. Routine: The habitual behavior itself.
  3. Reward: The benefit or pleasure you gain from doing the behavior.

Habit formation can be dangerous because, eventually, your brain goes on autopilot, making it easy for individuals to continue the habit without thinking about it.

At worst, habits can lead to destructive addictions. On the other hand, habits can boost your efficiency as you go about your day.

For someone recovering from substance abuse, developing new habits can help you avoid relapse during addiction recovery.

5 Steps for Creating Healthy Habits

STEP 1 – Think About Where You Want To Go

Create a vision for your ideal life. Think about the big picture, where you are today, where you would like to be in the future, and why that shift is important to you.

Having a clear idea of where you want to end up and why will keep you focused on moving forward towards that vision.

Write down your future vision in words, with doodles, or in any other form of expression. Putting your goals down on paper or in pictures will help you develop your idea and become a great reference tool.

Visualize yourself achieving your goals. What it will look like, feel like, taste like. Put as much sensory detail into it as possible.

Fuel Your Fire With Small Achievements

You may find that you have a big grandiose vision for your life, a humble vision, or perhaps both.

Remember that growth is a process–you can start simple and work your way up to bigger things as you progress.

Think of your smaller, more humble achievements as kindling for your metaphorical fire.

Once you look back at where you started to after completing your small goals, it can help fuel your motivation to tackle more significant challenges.

Define Your Action Steps

Next, identify what you need to do to realize your vision. Start with where you are today and determine one small goal to get you a step closer to your vision.

For example, a small goal could be to replace going to a bar every day after work with going to a yoga class instead.

Continue writing down goals that you’ll want to tackle, but don’t let them overwhelm you. Small incremental improvements are the key to healthy habits that last.

Throughout this process, be honest with yourself about what you want and why.

When you’re entirely truthful with yourself, you begin to lay a foundation for integrity in everything that you do.

STEP 2 – Set Realistic Expectations

Before you start implementing your new healthy habit, pause to make sure that your expectations are realistic.

Is your goal a challenge yet achievable? Do you have the time and resources to do what’s needed to accomplish your goal?

If not, where can you get help? Will you find it easier to stay on track if you have someone to keep you accountable?

There likely are harmful patterns in your life that contribute to your decision to use substances.

Things like lack of sleep, work stress, and a sedentary lifestyle can work against your efforts to create healthy habits.

By consciously being aware of harmful patterns, you can see where you might face a setback. Instead of giving up, recognize it, give yourself grace, and get back on track.

Promise to forgive yourself if you slip up. Remind yourself that all failures are temporary and that you can get right back to your healthy habit.

Forming new habits takes focus and constant repetition. Go into this with compassion and respect for yourself.

STEP 3 – Create New Routines

Next, you want to create routines that will support you in achieving your goal. That way, you don’t have to use as much willpower to stick to your new healthy habits.

The idea is to set up routines that make it easy to say “yes” to healthy choices and “no” to unhealthy choices.

Take the example of the person who usually stops by their favorite bar every day after work and then drinks too much.

Rather than driving past every day and trying to resist the urge to stop in “just for one drink,” it would be easier to simply take a different route home from work every day.

Keep temptation at a distance whenever possible.

Often, merely stopping an old habit won’t be enough to quit it forever. Instead, focus on replacing it with a new one.

Like, someone going home instead of to the bar every day after work, this person could go to a yoga class after work each day instead.

Or a CrossFit class. Or a meetup for people who love comics. Whatever activity you replace your old habit with, make sure it is the kind of healthy fun you personally enjoy.

STEP 4 – Make It Easy To Do The Healthy Thing

Give yourself healthy rewards for taking the desired steps, even small ones. Train your brain and your body to crave those healthy choices.

Realize that you don’t have an unlimited supply of willpower. Notice if there are certain times of day or circumstances when you are particularly likely to cave in and make an unhealthy choice.

Lack of willpower, especially when tired, hungry, or stressed, doesn’t make you weak. It just means you’re human. You can combat it by planning around it.

If you make a lapse in judgment or give in to a craving (which is likely to happen, at least once), quickly forgive yourself and return to your healthy habits.

You may fall down, but you don’t have to stay down.

Every day you will face the choice to continue in the right direction or abandon your course. You are not powerless to your addiction.

Repeatedly making steady changes will create new healthy habits that last a lifetime.

STEP 5 – Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

It’s easy to decide that you’re going to beat your addiction, especially when your motivation is strong enough to fight through the withdrawal and discomfort you may feel.

But the real challenge comes when motivation decreases. You may be more likely to succeed if you seek out help to get through the tough times.

Getting help doesn’t mean you are weak, or even necessarily that you require support. It merely means that you recognize when a job would be easier with another set of hands.

Drug and alcohol addictions can be incredibly challenging to overcome, which is why so many people seek formal treatment.

By reaching out for assistance–from a friend, a coach, a therapist, a treatment program–you are more likely to achieve your immediate goal, and you can then take on your next destination.

Over time, you can keep setting new goals until you achieve the big goals you’re ultimately after.

We Can Help You Achieve Your Sober Lifestyle

At Elevate, we do so much more than help people quit drugs and alcohol. We empower our clients with the tools to help themselves achieve the long-term results they truly want in life.

Because we understand this is a long-term change process, our inpatient treatment program is 90 days instead of 30 days, like most other programs.

Clients move through our program at their own pace based on their unique needs. And our aftercare program continues to provide support in the months afterward as they build a new sober life.

While only you can commit to change, you don’t have to go through the change yourself. You are more likely to succeed with help.

Contact us to tell us about your situation, and we can help you decide what type of support is appropriate in your case.

This page does not provide medical advice
Written by Elevate Addiction Services | © 2021 Elevate Addiction Services | All Rights Reserved

Medically Reviewed by

Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.

December 11, 2020

Overcome Addiction at Elevate Addiction Services
Elevate is currently offering immediate enrollment in inpatient, outpatient, or telehealth programs. Reach out today to learn more.

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