Habits aren’t destiny. Habits can be changed. When a habit emerges the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard… So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find a new routine – the pattern will unfold automatically.
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
My new routine began on 26th July 2009, the first day I said no to a drink. Two days later I knew my will was insufficient to keep me from drinking, to uphold this new behaviour which was not yet a habit, and so I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. 90 meetings in 90 days helped me break the habit of daily drinking and over the next few months and years, by utilising the twelve steps, I have developed new habits in other areas of my life (the dissolution of my “character defects”). Of course this process is by no means complete, but by staying continuously sober I give myself a chance to develop new further behavioural and thinking habits.
Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain and even with the evolution of new habits, remain dormant pathways ready to be activated with the right cues and rewards. This is why I must continue to attend meetings, continually work the steps, always work with other alcoholics and persistently endeavour to “enlarge my spiritual condition” in order to create “new neurological routines” that overpower my old behaviours.
At first this felt impossible – hard work, counterintuitive (obviously!), and at times excruciatingly painful. But as I write this I hear the echo of voices early in my recovery saying “Do the opposite!”. This makes so much sense now, as over time, doing the opposite has enabled me to create new habits that eventually become effortless and instinctive, overriding the old pathways.