Our days are made up largely of routines. The route we take to work, the shower-dress-breakfast routine, and even our exercise routines (hopefully) make up our days. We find comfort in them, and they can even help us to stick to our commitments. Establishing a routine for important things in our lives can help us ensure they get done, and require less mental resources because they become just a part of what we do. However, for the addict there is a dark side to routines….and I would argue that all are subject to this darker side to routines. We need to recognize that routines or patterns in our day can lead us to things we know are not good for us, but breaking these bad routines/patterns can prove harder than establishing the good ones. The important first step, it seems to me, is recognizing the patterns and the links between the harmless and harmful actions that make up a routine, then committing to changing them. I recognize that this is only one of the pieces in the complicated puzzle that is addiction, but I feel it is important.
This personal reflection came about as I tried to encourage someone close to me to change where they buy their newspaper and milk – a convenience store which is also a liquor outlet with a wall full of alcohol right beside the register – and the place where she used to regularly buy her vodka. I have not yet been able to convince her that this routine is a recipe for relapse, and that understanding and changing the patterns that lead to her drinking can help.
I’ll keep trying.