This article is by Adam Vibe Gunton and published by The Fix
“If you are someone who has struggled with addiction, you are excellent at forming habits.”
The first time my friend Dr. Darlene Mayo said that sentence to me, I was a little taken aback, and very intrigued. She was right: addicts are great at forming habits, and that propensity, when applied for good, can be life-changing.
During our conversation on The Recovered On Purpose Show, I shared with Dr. Mayo the story of my past as a homeless heroin addict, and my present as someone seeking to change other people’s lives through the power of the lessons I’ve learned on my journey to recovery.
I wanted to know if building solid habits was one of the keys to unlocking the kind of life I had always dreamed –– the kind of life I built for myself, and wanted to help others build as well.
And Dr. Mayo, neuroscientist and neurosurgeon who has spent decades studying the brain and how it’s wired, was absolutely right.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t my way of glamorizing addiction. My addiction ruined my life, and it was only when I realized I had nothing left to give but my life that I resolved to turn my life around. However, if Dr. Mayo’s wise words, and the habits I’ve built on my path to recovery, can ring true for even one person, it will have made my journey worth it.
When I was 26, I had it all: a 2,400-square-foot ranch home 10 minutes from the Central California beach, a girlfriend, a motorcycle, two cars, and a dog. My sales job working for DirecTV provided me with a comfortable living on about 25 hours a week, so I had plenty of time to do what I loved, like taking my girlfriend out on dates, swimming in the ocean, riding that motorcycle…
And shooting up with heroin.
At this point, my habit of shooting up before going to work and then shooting up when I got home hadn’t taken over my life. In fact, no one noticed anything was off. I was able to maintain my lifestyle, my home, and my relationships, and I thought I was truly capable of having it all.
A year later, when I was 27, I had lost that job, my house, all my vehicles, my girlfriend, and the dog. I was living on the streets – I had been kicked out of homeless shelters – and was severely underweight. Three years ago, I realized I had nothing left to give my addiction and resolved to get clean.
But, as I’m sure you know, that’s much easier said than done.
I got clean and sober in November 2017, and stopped smoking cigarettes a month later. Since then, I’ve built an online following of over 40,000 people, run a mile in under six minutes, published a best-selling autobiography, and created a seven-figure company.
But between 2017 and now, and between the lowest low of my addiction and the height of my success (so far), there was one key component that shaped my future:
The Habits that Changed My Life
Whether you want to recover from an addiction, a breakup, a psychological or spiritual upset, or just want to re-set your life, cultivating new habits to replace the old, negative cycles you’re used to is a lifelong practice. These three habits changed my life – and they’ll change yours too.
What are you interested in? What are you passionate about? Where in your life do you feel you’re lacking? Once you answer those questions, you’re well on your way to understanding what you should be learning about in your free time. Not only is lifelong learning a great practice for your mental health and agility, it also ensures you stay humble. No one can possibly know everything about everything, after all.
If you don’t have time to read, or know you take in information better through other means, that’s okay. We all learn and grow differently; the important thing is that you intentionally set aside time – at least 10 minutes – every day to invest in your growth.
Invest in Your Mornings
There’s a reason why morning routines are hailed by successful people all over the world as the key to unlocking your potential: you can spend your morning hours taking control of your day and investing in yourself before even starting to serve other people.
There’s no right or wrong way to craft your perfect morning routine; it all depends on your priorities and what you know is healthy for your mind, body and spirit. These are a few of the things I’ve incorporated into my morning routine:
- Brushing my teeth
- Making my bed
- Drinking lemon-flavored salt water
- Taking vitamins and supplements
- Reading my Bible
- Going to the gym
I also practice what I call the “list of six” every night. Before bed, I write down six things I want to do in the morning before my work day starts. My brain will work on them while I sleep and I’ll be ready to go the moment my eyes pop open the next morning.
Invest in Yourself
You’re no good to anything or anyone if you don’t take care of yourself first. And, while mastering yourself through self-discipline, healthy eating, exercise and more are all important, taking an hour a day to have fun and unwind is equally so.
I think we overestimate how much one hour will take away from our schedules, and underestimate what one hour can do for our lives. Setting aside time dedicated to enriching your spirit and bringing you joy is a great habit to establish, not only because it staves off burnout, but because everyone needs fun in their lives.