Bad habits are unhealthy behaviors, sometimes so ingrained in your brain that you do them unconsciously, such as biting your nails or smoking. Using drugs or drinking in response to stress and triggers can also be considered bad habits. Learning how to break bad habits in addiction is an integral part of recovery.

Understanding Addiction and Habits

Habits and addictions are so closely related that it can be difficult to distinguish between them. A habit is a repeated behavior that’s difficult to give up, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time. An addiction is a chronic medical disease that changes how your brain functions.

While the characteristics of habits and addictions overlap in multiple ways, the most significant difference is the time it takes to recover. Unhealthy habits can be altered with a few changes and a little effort, but addiction recovery is sometimes a lifelong process.

The Science Behind Habit Formation and Change

All habits form through a three-part process called a habit loop. This loop starts with a trigger, anything from a specific smell or feeling to seeing a particular object. This stimulus causes you to engage in a specific behavior, which rewards you with positive feelings. Eventually, your brain begins to identify the trigger with a reward, which is referred to as neuroplasticity.

Your brain can change at any age in your life, allowing you to quit a bad habit. You simply need to replace your existing loop with another one to establish new habits. For example, if you turn to the internet for entertainment when you’re bored, eventually, you’ll reach for your phone or another device whenever you have downtime. You can replace this unhealthy coping mechanism with a new hobby so that, over time, new habits develop.


We can help you achieve permanent sobriety that gives you your life back. Call to learn more about our therapy options in Phoenix, AZ.

Identifying and Addressing Triggers

Identifying and addressing triggers can help you replace bad habits with new ones. It’s also one strategy used in treatment programs for drug addiction and alcohol abuse. Correctly identifying triggers can make you more aware of how you react in certain situations and prepare you to manage your emotions.

Strategies for Identifying Triggers

  • Become aware of mental and physical responses. Pay attention to how your body and mind react to certain stimuli. When triggered, you may feel dizzy, have an upset stomach, and have shaky, or sweaty palms. You may also have many emotions, including extreme boredom, anger, or anxiety.
  • Reflect on the cause of the response. When you experience this reaction, try figuring out what happened and why. Keep a journal to help you further analyze your responses or track them.
  • Identify when the trigger first occurred. To help you break a habit, remember the first time the event triggered you. Understanding where the old habit started can give you a better understanding of yourself and make it easier to develop healthy ones.

Techniques for Managing Triggers

  • Work with a therapist. In addiction recovery, a therapist can guide you on how to deal with your emotions and bad habits. Expressing these emotions to someone can help you address the trigger and move forward into recovery.
  • Accept your feelings. Accept the fact that everyone experiences strong emotions, and it’s a completely normal reaction to express your feelings. The important thing is to take control of these emotions and make positive changes.
  • Replace the negative response with a positive one. Whether you currently respond with substance abuse or a bad habit, it’s important to substitute a healthy response for this negative one. For example, instead of drinking alcohol with coworkers or friends after work to deal with stress, opt for an afternoon jog before dinner to help you develop good habits.
Break Bad Habits and Change Behaviors for Successful Addiction Recovery

Breaking Bad Habits

Most treatment plans aim to help you replace a bad habit with a more productive new one. This can take time for those with a mental health disorder or substance abuse disorder; this can take time. If you have both issues, you may require dual diagnosis treatment.

Strategies for Breaking Bad Habits

  • Avoid unhealthy situations. For those who struggle with addiction, the best way to avoid bad habits is to avoid situations that cause you to use or have cravings.
  • Replace unhealthy habits with good ones. Similar to avoiding unhealthy situations, replacing unhealthy habits with positive ones can help break the cycle. If you know you’ll drink when you go to parties, spend time with individuals instead of groups, or if you know you’ll turn to substance abuse when you’re stressed from work, learn healthy ways, like exercise or painting, to deal with stress.
  • Seek support. A trained professional can suggest ways to help you break bad habits. You can also turn to support groups to get advice and motivation from others who’ve gone through similar experiences.

Developing Healthy Behaviors and Coping Skills

Healthy behaviors and coping skills are key to successful addiction recovery. By practicing healthy behaviors, you can reduce impulsivity and learn how to change negative situations to positive ones.

Strategies for Cultivating Healthy Habits

  • Practice new behaviors every day. Habits are created through repetition, so one of the best ways to cultivate a healthier habit is by practicing it every day. For example, take a walk every day after work to relieve stress or schedule a time for therapy once a week.
  • Be specific. It’s important to be specific about your goals when cultivating positive habits. Instead of saying you want to quit drinking alcohol to get healthy, specify that you need to stop drinking to lower your blood pressure or you want to save money. Relating your desire to stop drinking to more actionable and specific goals makes it easier to achieve them.
  • Reward yourself. Plan rewards for the number of days you abstain from a bad habit. In addiction recovery, reward yourself after 1 month of sobriety or even 1 year. Set milestones and work toward those goals.
Young man looking at the horizon. Background image

Building Coping Skills to Deal With Stress and Setbacks

  • Learn how to relax. Stress is one of the main factors in relapse. For this reason, it’s important to learn how to relax and de-stress. Practice deep breathing, go for a walk, listen to music, take a hot bath, or even keep a journal.
  • Stay busy. To help you avoid old habits, fill your schedule with healthier activities. Learn a new hobby, take up dancing, play sports, or travel to new places. The busier you are, the less time you’ll have to think about using your substance of choice.

Avoid triggers. One of the best coping strategies during addiction recovery is to avoid triggers. Stay away from situations and places that can cause you to relapse and affect your mental health. This may mean you have to let go of damaging friendships and create a new life for yourself. Never be afraid to protect your sobriety through lifestyle change.


We can help you achieve permanent sobriety that gives you your life back. Call to learn more about our therapy options in Phoenix, AZ.

Seek Professional Help and Support With Camelback Recovery

If you’re ready to address an unhealthy habit or addiction, Camelback Recovery can help. We offer many treatment options to help you gain a healthier lifestyle and overcome your substance use disorder. Contact us at 602-466-9880 to get started today.