Change can be intimidating. This is especially the case when it is a big change like becoming sober. When you get clean, your entire life will be transformed, and your life will no longer be the same. It is by taking intentional steps over time that you will see how you can make the changes needed to live a healthier life.
Everything starts with one step or one decision to no longer live a chemically-dependent life. You have the power to make that choice to just make one good decision and to build on that one decision. At first, you do not want to focus on the long-term but rather the short-term, which is today. Just make one good decision today. Then move on from there.
There are four specific ways to help you embrace lasting change including the following:
- Start with healthy habits – What is a healthy habit? Instead of that question, just start with making good decisions. Instead of being around negative people who complain or talk negatively, spend your time with positive people. Do not spend your time with others who currently use drugs or drink. Instead, spend your time with those who are healthy. Go to the gym or work out if you have a craving to use again. Psychology Today mentions the process called habit formation, which is the moment where you instinctively want to pursue former habits such as using drugs. The behavioral patterns that you do the most, over time, are written in the neural pathways in your brain.
- Use your habits to form good routines – Once you have several healthy habits, over time you can establish a good routine. A routine is essentially a compilation of the habits you have developed. You have to be intentional and also plan ahead to make a healthy routine. This may sound overwhelming, so do not try to do this on your own. The great thing is that you can get help with this in the form of your support network that you have. Most problems arise when you do not reach out for help but try to handle things on your own. Know your support network is there for your use. Your friends and family are a good start, but you also need your doctor, therapist and likely a sponsor from Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. You likely won’t get everything right the first time, but you will be able to adjust over time.
- Have a plan for when you struggle – This needs to be a specific plan that is both easy to follow and use. You know you will be tempted to use drugs or drink again. Do not come up with a plan when you are facing temptation. Instead, know who you will call so you do not have to decide when you want to be intoxicated or struggling. Be sure to know who you will contact if your primary contact is unavailable. Try to meet in person if possible. Text messages are not personal enough. Everyone slips up and makes mistakes at times, so accountability is a very essential to ensuring that change becomes lasting.
- Have both short-term and long-term goals – Goals are very important as they give meaning to the habits and routines that you put in place. Everyone wants to have a purpose and reason to do things.
The concept of SMART goals is very helpful here as shown by . Goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Sensitive. Without each of these things, a goal is harder to track and can get confusing. For example, a good short-term goal may be to work out three times a week. Until you clearly identify when you will workout and for how long, it is not a specific or measurable goal. If you stated that you are going to play basketball for 40 minutes on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday this upcoming week, that would be a great short-term goal.
The great news is when you have developed discipline in one area of your life by creating healthy habits, it creates a domino effect and carries over to other areas. Take some time to reflect and think about one area you are doing well. This will help your mindset and create positive momentum in your life to encourage you to keep moving forward.