Understanding Your Substance Abuse Habits and Successfully Changing Them

When you are engaged in substance use, your brain becomes rewired to constantly seek out drugs or alcohol because it’s become a habit. When you begin the journey to recovery, you must learn how to change your bad habits into healthier ones to beat addictions for the long term. Recognizing these habits is the first step; then you must learn healthy coping mechanisms and turn those into habits. Once you successfully turn those coping mechanisms into habits, maintaining your recovery will become easier. 

Defining Habits

As defined by Meriam-Webster Dictionary, a habit is “a behavior pattern acquired by frequent repetition or physiologic exposure that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance.” Habits are formed over time, usually between 18 and 254 days. The average time a habit takes to form is 66 days. Once a habit is formed, it can be hard to break, especially when it was formed as a substitute for something else. For example, instead of dealing with negative emotions, some turn to drugs or alcohol. It can be hard to break this habit of addiction without identifying and healing the underlying cause of the formation of the habit.  

Bad Habits in Addiction

Identifying the bad habits within your active addiction is the first step in changing them for the better. Typically, addiction arises as a coping mechanism, so when something bad happens it is important to recognize how you are feeling, why, and the actions you engage in because of it. Here are some common bad habits that people with substance use disorder often engage in: 

1. Instant Gratification

Many people addicted to drugs or alcohol receive instant gratification when consuming drugs or alcohol. The immediate relief is often the appeal of drugs or alcohol for dealing with negative emotions. Constantly seeking out this instant gratification is what makes addiction continue. Healthy coping mechanisms often take work and understanding when you are learning and turning them into habits. Learning to let go of the negative habits will help improve your recovery dramatically. 

2. Justifying Your Bad Habits

You will never heal if you live in denial that there is a problem at all. By justifying your bad habits, you are allowing yourself to constantly make bad choices without any consequences. It is not OK to hurt yourself and others because of childhood trauma, domestic abuse, etc. While the problem itself wasn’t your fault, it is your responsibility to heal and break the cycle. Justifying your bad habits will keep you from doing this. 

3. Not Engaging in Self-Care

When you’re addicted to a substance, taking proper care of yourself can fall by the wayside. You may have a poor diet, do not get enough sleep, don’t exercise and don’t engage in activities to improve mental health such as meditation, journaling, etc. If you do not engage in self-care, you deny yourself the foundation for achieving growth or progress. Breaking this habit and engaging in activities that nurture you physically and emotionally can be incredibly beneficial to your recovery. 

Healthy Habits to Form in Recovery

Once you recognize the bad habits you have formed during active addiction, you can begin transforming them into healthy ones that will help your recovery. The following are habits that are known to aid in recovery and the maintenance of sobriety:

1. Be Honest with Yourself

Instead of living in denial about the severity of your addiction and the harm it has caused both you and those around you, be honest with yourself. You cannot fix a problem until you have identified that there even is one to begin with. Be direct and identify what your bad habits are so you can begin to change them. 

2. Engage in Self-Care

Just as not looking after your mental and physical health is a bad habit in addiction, engaging in self-care is a good habit in recovery. Your mental and physical health are what will keep you going to conquer the bad days and get you feeling good in your sobriety. Take time for yourself each day to bolster your recovery. Try exercising to release stress, journaling about things you are grateful for, or anything that is sober, healthy, and brings you joy. 

3. Get Sober Support 

Surrounding yourself with those that are sober and support your recovery is vital to your recovery. Maintaining relationships with those that encourage your substance abuse will do nothing to help you to sobriety. Recognize who is a good influence, cultivate your relationships with them, and come to understand that you deserve to have people in your life that truly love you and have your best interest in mind. 


At Casa Palmera, we are experienced in helping people with co-occurring substance abuse and behavioral health issues replace destructive habits with healthy ones that sustain recovery for the long term. Breaking a habit is difficult but not impossible. Our comprehensive treatment center, located in Los Angeles, can help you learn to identify harmful behaviors you are engaging in and develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with difficult emotions and memories. Casa Palmera fully supports individuals of all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities and takes pride in providing the best tailored care to members of the minority community. The treatment staff at Casa Palmera ensures that your detox, treatment, and recovery are tailored to your individual needs. Our goal is to provide individualized treatment in a safe and secure environment in hopes that you can live a happier, healthier, and prosperous future.

For more information about habits, addiction, and forming positive routines in recovery, contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.