The Powerful 21/90 Rule in Addiction Recovery:

The Powerful 21/90 Rule in Addiction Recovery

Turning Habits into a New and Healthy Lifestyle

The road to a sober lifestyle is a long and rough one. Recovering from addiction brings about emotional, physical, and mental challenges that make the journey sometimes seem entirely impossible.

It is essential to recognize that every challenge is a chance to grow and can be a powerful learning experience.

Sobriety is all about self-discovery. It is also an opportunity to face the demons that led to your addiction problems.

As you go through recovery, you will develop the strength and motivation to stay away from anything that might cause a relapse.

There are many roots to addiction, and every person is affected by it differently. Things like sexual abuse, trauma, and mental illness can all lead a person to drugs or alcohol.

Instead of suppressing painful emotions and memory from your addiction, it is time to face your demons.

The first step is to get physically healthy; then you need to get mentally and emotionally stable as well.

Many people feel worthless, ashamed, isolated and depressed when addicted to alcohol or drugs.

To be ready for sobriety though, you have to want to grow, change and make a difference in your life.

It is essential you seek out special techniques to help you come to terms with your situation and recognize the bright side of things. That is where the 21/90 rule comes into play.


What is the 21/90 Rule?

The 21/90 rule suggests that it takes 21 days to break a bad habit and create a new habit which within 90 days will then create a new lifestyle.

Having the ability to create a new lifestyle opens up a whole new world of opportunity.  This concept is fascinating because it goes to shows you that recovery is nothing to be afraid of and is instead something to embrace.

Breaking your recovery down into smaller portions is one way to ensure your success. The 21-day mark becomes a milestone to work towards, as does the 90-day mark.

This is a lot more manageable than the concept of “forever” too many people think they need to be sober “forever,” and while this may be true, to someone just starting out on the road to recovery, forever can be very intimidating.

That is why the 21/90 day rule is so helpful. It is a tool to get you through your first 90 days. After that, chances are sustaining your sobriety is going to be very important to you. That is something that is exciting and inspiring.


How Bad Habits Start

Bad habits develop because of repetition and the brain’s natural reward pathway in the brain. Doing the same thing over and over again forms neurological pathways that cause us to do something without overthinking it.

This is because the reward system releases a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain known as dopamine. Producing more dopamine creates a pleasurable feeling.

In turn, it reinforces your unhealthy habit by causing you to have cravings for alcohol or drugs.

However, this brain’s natural reward pathway can help you sustain new and healthier habits.

The First 21 Days: Breaking and Creating Habits

In addiction recovery, you create a healthy habit through repetition and self-control. Self-control is like a muscle that strengthens as you use it more frequently.

For instance, if you went on a walk each time you had a craving for alcohol or drugs, by the time 21 days is over you will notice that you have fewer drug cravings and more walks.

This is because you have created a new habit in place of the old one. In this example, the old habit is abusing a substance, and the healthy new habit is taking a walk. It is important to note that self-control tests your willpower.

The best way to ensure your success is to start small. Take it one day at a time if you have to. The more you resist temptation by engaging in other activities, like walking, the less power your addiction will have over you.


The Remaining 90 Days: Building a New Lifestyle

Creating a sustainable lifestyle change requires support and dedication. Once you are ready to change, it is time to follow through with your promises to yourself.

If you can commit 90 days to follow through on your changes then, chances are after the first 90 days are over you will want to continue on the path to success.

After that, you will want to keep making plans and setting small goals to tackle things one step at a time proactively.

Finding Balance

Having balance in your life sounds quite lovely. Balance is key to a meaningful life. To create the balance you need to build a healthy lifestyle. Identifying what is important to you will help you find the value in a healthy lifestyle.

There are two things the lead to a balanced lifestyle. The first thing is that you understand and respect what is important to you. The second thing is that you change your perspective in areas that you are stuck in.

To have meaningful balance in your life you will need to:

  1. Take Inventory. Determine and evaluate the areas of your life where you spend most of your time and energy, becoming aware of which parts of your life are out of balance gives you the opportunity to correct them.

  2. Be Honest. Honestly answering questions like, “what are your thoughts and feelings,” “What do you want to do better,” and “if you had a second chance what would you do differently,” are all introspective questions that when answered honestly can provide great insight into your addiction and recovery from substance abuse. It also gives you a starting point of what you need to fix.

  3. Trust your Gut Feeling. Chances are there are going to be a few things you could do better. Choosing which one to tackle first is an overwhelming task. The trick to choosing is to go with your gut feeling. This is because it is easier to go with your gut and you’ll be working on something you’re interested in changing.

  4. Create a Plan. Preparing an action plan places your focus on what you need to improve and how to do it. Create a plan and stick to it.

  5. Reach out for Support. Change is not easy. Instead of struggling and potentially failing, get all of the support you can get. Confide in loved ones, friends, and mental health professionals. This will make it more likely that you will reach your goals.

  6. Have Fun. Seeking out new experiences and having a good time with your recovery is the best way to find balance in your life. Enjoying the process is key to building a new and happy lifestyle.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Along with the 21/90 day rule and finding balance in your life you will want to set S.M.A.R.T goals throughout your recovery process. S.M.A.R.T goals are as follows:

  1. Specific

  2. Measurable

  3. Attainable

  4. Relevant

  5. Timely


Being specific means setting a defined goal. Setting particular goals answers the six different “w” questions which determine what, where, how, when, who, and why.

  1. Who is involved in the goal?

  2. What needs to be accomplished?

  3. Where should this goal take place?

  4. When will the goal be completed?

  5. What is required for the goal?

  6. Why does this goal need to be accomplished?


Measurable goals are useful because they allow you to track your progress and remain motivated.  Measuring your progress helps keep you focused, on track, and excited about your progress.


Making your goal realistic and achievable is essential. A good goal will challenge you while remaining within the realm of reasonable possibilities. Setting an attainable goal gives you a chance to look at previously missed resources or opportunities and then brings you closer to your goal.


This step involves making sure that your goal aligns with your values and is what you truly want. If you answer “yes” to the following questions then chances are your goal is relevant to you:

  1. Is it worth pursuing?

  2. Is now the right time for this goal?

  3. Does this goal fit in with other needs?

  4. Is this goal right for me?

  5. Does it make sense in my current socio-economic environment?


Each goal needs to have a deadline so that you have something you can focus on and work towards. This helps to prevent daily tasks from taking priority over your overall goals.

S.M.A.R.T. Goal Examples in Recovery

Some good example goals that fit all the criteria of S.M.A.R.T. goals are as follows:

  1. I will detox from my drug of choice next week and remain drug-free for at least 90 days.

  2. I will attend psychotherapy twice a week and group therapy twice a month for the next four months.

  3. Instead of doing drugs for the next 21 days I will go for a walk for 10 minutes every time I have a craving.

These goals are all specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely as any good S.M.A.R.T. is or should be. This system is a useful tool that provides you with focus, motivation and the clarity you require to achieve your goals.

It also improves your ability to reach them because you have defined your objectives and set a date for completion. They are easy to use, and you don’t need any special tools or training to carry them out. You only need to set your mind to it and do it.

Dispelling Addiction Myths

Courageous, insightful, and honest are not the words you usually would use to describe a drug addict. However, when given a chance, addicts can develop these qualities and become productive members of society.

Despite preconceived notions and ideas about addiction recovery, those who go through it are incredibly strong. That is why it is important to dispel some common myths regarding addiction and recovery.

  1. Myth #1 Addicts are Bad People and Deserve Punishment: Anyone can develop an addiction problem. Women and men, rich and poor, old or young, everyone is susceptible to addiction problems. In today’s climate, there’s hostility towards addicts and a lot of judgment towards those who are struggling. People can say cruel thing like, “let them die, they asked for it,” and while it is true that addicts do terrible things sometimes, it is important to recognize that addiction is a brain disease. Addiction is a chronic illness and those who are sick need treatment, not punishment and hostility, to get better and rejoin society.

  2. Myth #2: Detox is Enough, and Rehab Doesn’t Work: The truth is rehab does work and detox is a great start, but it does not prevent relapsing. Rehab addresses the underlying causes of your addiction and makes sure that your efforts in detox are not wasted.

  3. Myth #3 Addiction is a Choice: If recovery were as simple as exercising willpower, addiction would not be a problem. Brain imaging studies have shown that there is a long-term cause and effect of addiction. Addiction is an illness that requires intervention, or it could be deadly.


Take the First Step

Taking that first step onto the road of recovery might seem overwhelming, but it is entirely possible to turn your life around.

First, you need to stop wishing and start doing. It’s easy to wish things were different and did nothing about it than it is to change. Switching from wishing mindset to a doing one will help you take that first step in recovery.

Next, you will want to start with manageable goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goal model; you will want to set goals you know you can complete. No matter how simple it is, the point is to get started and to start taking active steps towards your recovery.

Finally, using the 21/90 day rule, you will want to transform your habits into a new lifestyle. Habits are formed in 21 days, and a new lifestyle can be achieved in 90 days.

Before you know it, if you stick with it, you will make tons of progress and will get your life back your under control.

The path of sobriety is a long one with many challenges. However, it all begins with one-foot step followed by another.

So, let go of your fears and take that first step today. You will be glad you did.


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Need Help with the 21/90 rule or building new success habits?

If you want to begin forming new and healthier habits but need help getting a good ‘Success Habit’ program started, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.

The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment.  Call anytime.

Chateau Recovery Center 375 Rainbow Lane

Midway, UT 84049, USA Phone: +1 435-654-1082

Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.

If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.



The 21/90 rule.  The Positive Game of Life

This video is about 21\90 Rule.

“I created this video to show you guys what the 21\90 rule means. I want you to create good habits and afterward, an amazing lifestyle. When I first saw this title in an article. I read it and looked like a math equation, so I never took it seriously then. But when I read it again, I was surprised how that term was a very great way of speaking about habits and lifestyles.”

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