Recovery can be defined as a process of building a healthy lifestyle and making lifelong changes to better our lives. If you are in recovery, you have most likely had some unhealthy habits and behaviors that have held you back from growth and change. When you engage in the recovery process, you may have to give up a lot of your unhealthy habits. While these unhealthy habits or behaviors were not conducive to building a meaningful life, they were likely motivated by fulfilling some need or want. To find suitable replacement behaviors, you have to consider the underlying motivations of your unhealthy behaviors. When you know why you engaged in your addictive behaviors, you can start to explore healthier options to meet the same needs, wants, or desires.
Behavior: A Form of Communication
Most of our behaviors serve as a way of communicating something to ourselves or others. Generally, behaviors are ways of communicating about what we want by taking action to obtain those things. What purpose did your unhealthy behaviors serve? What were you trying to communicate by engaging in them? Here are six common reasons people give for their unhealthy behaviors:
- The need to belong. Peer pressure is a common reason that people engage in risky behaviors. Peer pressure is motivated by the need to be accepted and liked. The need to belong and having a sense of community is a strong motivator for behaviors, both healthy and unhealthy.
- Boredom. Sometimes, we are simply bored and are unsure of healthy ways to quell our boredom. We may have grown up with parents who also engaged in unhealthy recreational activities, such as drinking excessively or using drugs. We may not have a good example to follow for how to occupy our time appropriately.
- Co-occurring disorders. Some of us have underlying co-occurring mental health issues that drive our unhealthy behaviors. Some people use alcohol to cope with social anxiety. Others may become addicted to drugs to cope with depression. If our primary motivation is that we are seeking relief from mental anguish, then we can seek healthy treatment options for our mental wellness.
- Pain management. We may be suffering from chronic pain and use unhealthy methods of numbing the pain by using alcohol or other substances. We also might find ourselves addicted to substances following dependence on pain management medications. Underlying emotional and physical issues might need to be addressed for recovery.
- Trauma. People may behave in unhealthy ways to deal with trauma or to numb themselves from past experiences. Risky or unhealthy habits might serve as a distraction from thinking about our traumatic past.
- Stress. We may not have learned healthy ways to manage stress or other emotions. Unhealthy behaviors might be our way of coping with stress. However, they usually lead to a lower quality of life and can cause more problems than the issues we sought to solve. Stress management techniques, like mindfulness and deep breathing, can enhance our quality of life and help us in our recovery.
Did any of these stick out to you as a motivation for some of your unhealthy habits? If so, now you can begin to find healthy methods of obtaining the same needs. When you engage in healthy behaviors, you set yourself up for growth and positive changes.
Healthy Replacement Behaviors
Healthy replacement behaviors are ways of meeting our needs with ways that do not cause more problems in our lives. For those of us in recovery, we may need to explore some of our hobbies and interests to find new activities to fill our time. We might want to try physical fitness or other exercise programs to release natural endorphins that make us feel good. We may need to learn to express our emotions to heal from them, rather than numbing them to escape our pain. We might need to make some life changes to manage our stress levels. We also may need to learn how to say “no” and set boundaries with others, who pressure us to do things we do not want to do.
Once you understand your motivations, you can begin to find healthy coping mechanisms. Recovery is the process of replacing your unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones. Healthy behaviors enhance our lives and help us change for the better. On your recovery path, you will learn new ways of living that may not have been apparent to you before. Be open-minded and try new things to live the best life on your journey of recovery.
One of the hardest parts of recovery is changing our habits. Most of us are so accustomed to our routines that we have a difficult time making any changes, even changes for the better. Sometimes we know we want to make a change, yet we are unsure of where to start. By understanding our underlying motivations, we can begin to find healthy replacements for our unhealthy and unfulfilling habits. Once we understand why we behave a certain way, we can begin to find alternatives to achieve similar ends. We might need some time in a positive and supportive environment to create new habits. Change is hard, but you do not have to do it alone. At Camelback Recovery, we teach replacement behaviors to help others learn new ways of replacing bad habits. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 for more information to help you or a loved one!