The word on how long it takes to establish a new habit varies depending on who you ask. Of course, this is usually discussed around something more benign or beneficial, such as going to the gym three times a week. With drug habits or addictive behaviors, just as with other habits, “it’s possible to switch out of one mental habit and settle into another incompatible habit. But you might switch back into the old habit if you’re not careful.”

The Process of Shutting down Drug Habits and Addictive Behaviors

It’s obviously both good and bad that you can change your habits ‘easily.’ It means that you can definitively stop drinking alcohol or using drugs with work and professional help. However, it also means that it’s possible for that ‘switch’ in your brain to be flipped again, returning you to the state you were in before getting started.

Why is this? Unfortunately, your work in changing habits doesn’t remove previous, bad habits, and it instead “deactivates” those neural pathways. This makes you unlikely to do those things, but it doesn’t make it impossible. To really solidify the ceasing of one practice, you have to substitute another, healthier one in its place. This whole process has everything to do with the neurons in your brain and, specifically, with which ones are ‘switched on or off.’ This isn’t something that’s as easy to control as literally flipping a switch, but some dedicated ‘brain training’ will help get you to your goals.

“The two versions can easily switch, as the activation of the neurons shifts, due to… the way you’re feeling, the way you’re thinking, how much you slept last night, whether or not your dealer just called,” and more. Essentially, there are a slew of factors that could bring those drug habits back, even when you thought that you had overcome them for good. It’s important to know the difference, to remember and acknowledge that you can manage these habits with a lot of hard work and, usually, time. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll never be a threat to you again. Once you’ve ‘shut off’ those addictive behaviors, you have to work to keep them at bay, to establish positive habits in their places.

Don’t be discouraged if this process seems to take a long time. It likely will, and it’ll take the help and support of family, friends, and professionals, such as addiction counselors and specialists. “Neuronal patterns take a long time to fade — through a process known as synaptic pruning.” It can be frustrating to experience, given the typical time frame, but it’s crucial to reach sobriety. A big part of rehabilitation is replacing addictive behaviors with new practices in order to establish a healthier routine overall.

Going through all of this can make it seem as if there are two people within you, two struggling for control. One may still be attached to the old drug habits while the other is fighting for change. You can be the most difficult opposition that you encounter, since thoughts and ideas and feelings will often battle among themselves in this process. However, that’s why the support of other is so important, and why it’s dangerous to neglect the aid of others.

If you need to find help in order to change addictive behaviors within yourself or someone else, then contact The Bergand Group. We offer recovery programs for yourself or for others or are seeking education materials about addictions. The Bergand Group is Maryland’s leading addiction recovery center and offers support for those struggling with drug addiction and mental health issues, including direction for those who may be denying an addiction.  We can help you to work through your addiction in a safe and healthy environment where everyone is committed to your care.

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About The Bergand Group:

At The Bergand Group in Baltimore and Harford County, Maryland, our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol rehab and drug rehabilitation. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. We can help. Contact us today.