How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit?

How Long Does It Take to Change a Habit?

How long does it take to change a habit? Research shows that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change a habit.

Drinking and using drugs are habits for people that suffer from substance use disorders. We reach for a drink or a drug when we’re happy or when we’re sad, we look forward to using, and we suffer from withdrawal when we go a few days without.

Recovery takes time because changing a habit takes time. People often tell me that they went to one AA meeting and report back, “I tried AA and it didn’t work for me.” They go to a hospital detox for a weekend and are surprised that they’re drinking again by midweek.

Doing one thing once is not going to work.

To really change a behavior, you need to make a commitment and take action every single day. No one gets sober in a day, but you can commit to making a beginning any day you want. Taking action every day is what changes behavior. Making a conscious choice to get sober, and then backing that up with a plan for sober activities every day, is what works.

In early sobriety, a motivated person might choose to go to two or three Twelve Step meetings every day. One in the morning when they wake up, another in the afternoon, and a final meeting in the evening. This person has a high likelihood of success. They’re taking the time to commit to sobriety and they’re doing the work every day. After a month or two of continuous sobriety, they may walk their meeting schedule back.

I have twelve years sober. I maintain my sobriety by attending Twelve Step meetings. Over the years of attending meetings, I’ve made so many friends that, at this point, most of my close friends are actually Twelve Step friends. We share a common bond, a common goal, and we’ve grown up together. I’ve seen their lives change and grow, and they’ve seen the same for me. We’ve shared good time and bad times over the years. When you attend Twelve Step meetings for a long time, they become your social network.

To recover from an addiction, to change that habit, you need to take several actions every day. One of those actions can be going to a Twelve Step meeting. Going to a meeting every day will help keep you accountable. If you have a meeting on your schedule at 7:30 AM, you’re much less likely to drink the night before. Attend the same meeting several times, you’ll meet new people, further reinforcing your commitment to sobriety. If you know you’ll see Joe at the Wednesday night meeting, you’re less likely to drink on Tuesday.


About Adam Banks

Adam Banks is a certified interventionist and the owner of Adam Banks Recovery. After receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago, Adam built a company acquired by United Health Care. His discipline and attention to detail comes from his former career as an airline pilot, holding an ATP, the FAA’s highest license.

Today, Adam is dedicated to helping others achieve long-term sobriety. His work has guided executives, pilots, and physicians on paths to recovery. Adam brings families together through a loving and inclusive approach.

Adam has authored four books on addiction. His recent work, Navigating Recovery Ground School: 12 Lessons to Help Families Navigate Recovery, educates families on the entire intervention process. He also offers a free video course for families considering an intervention for a loved one. 

Adam is available for alcohol and drug intervention services in New York, Long Island, the Hamptons as well as nationally and internationally. 

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