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Set Intention: Hacking Away at Your Bad Habits

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Set Intention: Hacking Away at Your Bad Habits

Some problems seem too abstract to fix easily, so we resort to mental shortcuts instead. Unfortunately, this bad habit of deferring difficult/work-intensive decisions (like, say, getting clean and sober) creates a host of unintentional consequences.

Set IntentionHere’s a simple illustration of why you should set intention, and why it matters so much for deciding to solve a complex problem like addiction:

Simple Problem
My car is leaking oil.
Solution: Take it to your mechanic.
Habitual Thinking: “$400 to fix it? Ughhh… but I can’t get to work without my car, so okay.”
Left with no other easy option, you break out your debit or credit card and pay for the repairs. Deferment doesn’t work in this situation, so… Problem solved!

Abstract Problem
I’m afraid that I’ll get caught drinking at work.
Solution: Stop drinking at work.
Habitual Thinking: But alcohol takes the edge off, and work is causing me this stress in the first place! I’ve made it this far with vodka water bottles, so…
Left with an abstract pro/con situation, you defer the decision to stop drinking. Problem prolonged!

Obviously, problem prolonged is not really a solution. In fact, it complicates the original problem even further, and we’re all familiar with the snowball effect. But it’s so much easier to fall back on bad habits and defer. And defer. And defer some more, at least until the day we get fired for gross misconduct due to drinking.

Why Intention Matters

In order to circumvent these avoidable consequences, mental shortcuts need to be hijacked and made to work in your favor. The tendency for us to use heuristics is actually part of our evolution as a species. As an example, we don’t need to be told twice that bad smells indicate rotten food. This survival instinct is part learned, part physiological response thanks to our bodies.

Unfortunately, addicts and alcoholics do not have normal physiological reactions to their drug of choice—it’s why they don’t have instinctual “stop” button that usually comes in the form of sickness, confusion, or tiredness. It sucks, right? But there’s good news: Treatment has been proven to work if you really want it. If the intention is there. It just takes the right steps and doing what works for you.

In other words, utilize intention to retrain your brain’s instincts. That way, the instinct to reach for the bottle turns into an instinct for something less self-destructive. Maybe it’s getting a cup of coffee, or hitting the gym. Whatever that new instinct ends up being, the intention that carries you can be empowered along the way.

You Have Control

Addiction has a way of making us feel like we are not in control of our own choices. Loss of control is a scary feeling that makes us run away and seek the comfortable and familiar. But rather than allowing your instincts to guide that hand toward the bottle (or needle, or whatever else), close your eyes and envision that instinct as an invasion of your mind. An invasion that’s trying to push you farther down that cliff you’ve been working so hard to climb.

Rather than falling into that invasion of your instincts, you can reach outward to get a handle on what’s happening inward. There are many ways to quell the desire to relapse. Maybe thinking about the consequences to your family works… But if that’s not enough, turning to one of these tips can help guide your mind in the right direction. That is, they can help you restore control thanks to positive intentions.

Tip #1

Set Intention Through Wearables & Clothing

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Although we don’t always treat it as such in the midst of addiction, the body is a temple.

Wearing physical messages of recovery can help us literally hold onto our intentions. They provide a medium of hope for us to look at no matter where we go. This is great for moments when your mind wanders. Believe it or not, in the new age of on demand entertainment and short attention spans, “boredom” is actually a healthy exercise that we should embrace more often.


Serenity Prayer Leather Bracelet

Author Recommendation: Alex & Ani Bracelets

As a recovering alcoholic since 2014 myself, this article was largely inspired by my own jewelry collection. Every morning, I choose 2-3 of my Alex & Ani bracelets that help set my intention for the day. Alex & Ani charms represent meaningful symbols and messages, and many of the proceeds to go specific charities. These are the ones I chose for today:

Set Intention - Alex and Ani BraceletsOm Symbol – This spiritual icon is found in several eastern religions. I personally associate it with my yoga practice, and it reminds me to stay grounded and humble.

Path of Life Symbol – Created by the Alex and Ani artists, the winding curves remind me that creativity is an end unto itself, impatience doesn’t get me anywhere, and that I shouldn’t feel derailed when life takes a turn.

Bike Symbol – I’m into road cycling, and this Charity by Design charm reminds me to make healthy and safe choices.

Tip #2

Set Intention through Mobile Apps & Background Screen

New Message From: Happier Life

Things you see every day have a way of seeping into your subconscious. This is a great way to train your brain to think recovery without even trying. Since we look at our phones so often nowadays, setting a background screen that says “recovery” without being too obvious is a great way to stay on track. We’ve provided this graphic for you to use for that very purpose:

Changing iPhone Wallpaper
Changing Android Wallpaper

Mobile recovery apps like Sober Grid are also a great way to stay on track through push alerts or simply as a resource in times of need.

Tip #3

Set Intention in Your Car & Keys

Have Sobriety, Will Travel

At least here in SoCal, we get pretty much everywhere in our cars. That leaves a lot of room for say… driving to the liquor store on a relapse mission. Or “having a drink with the guys” before you’re ready (because let’s be honest, you won’t really only have water while you’re there). So having a reminder in our cars is a great way to set intention and keep on the sober track.

But most of us take at least some pride in our vehicles, so it has to be subtle. Classy. A big “don’t buy booze, dummy” sign won’t cut it. So here are some ideas:

AA Symbol Coaster for Your Cup Holder

Leather Key Tag for AA/NA Chip

Tip #4

Set Intention by Tidying Up to a Clean Slate

Clear Space Means Clear Thoughts

Yeah, cleaning up sucks. It feels like a chore. But you can’t deny that when you’re done cleaning a room that you spend a lot of time in, it feels amazing to kick back and relax.

Keeping your literal house in order can help keep your mental house in order. But if you’re into that “organized mess” thing, go for it! You can also use your living space for, say, a…

Serenity Prayer Wall Plaque

Tip #5

Set Intention with a Small Book Shelf

It’ll Make You Look Smart Too

Whether it’s a dedicated shelf or simply a spot on your desk, putting aside a space for recovery reading materials is a great way to set intention. We recommend you actually pick up the materials and read them (especially in early recovery), but even having them nearby is a step in the right direction.

Daily Reflections: A Book of Reflections by A.A. Members for A.A. Members

Of course, going to meetings and actively working on your recovery is what will really carry you through. But it doesn’t hurt to follow these tips, and they help create a supportive environment for making the right choices. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, call our addiction counselors today: 855-737-7363

What are some of the ways you set intention in your life? Comment below!

Posted in Addiction, Health and Wellness, Recovery, Relapse, Residential