“I am an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them never happened”. - Mark Twain
This quote, says volumes about an individual. For most people it is thinking that affects their lives more than what actually happens with them. Much of what one worries about may never actually happen in reality
In recovery from addiction, negative thinking, or self-destructive thinking, is referred to as ‘stinking thinking’. This basically implies the irrational beliefs one may have about oneself, about relationships, addiction, recovery and one’s overall satisfaction in life.
Negative beliefs affect the way you feel and think which has an obvious effect on your behaviour as well.
Our beliefs are influenced by many people, factors and life experiences. Certain common categories of beliefs could be about oneself and our capabilities, our chemical dependence, recovery and relapse potential, events that happen in our life and our future.
Our beliefs and capabilities play a major role not only in our recovery, but in our life as well. If you believe you are bad, unworthy, or inadequate, these beliefs will only lead you to develop a trait of low self-confidence. This can cause you to doubt in your capabilities, personal strengths, or take up tasks you know you will fail in. What we fail to see is that you do not risk failing but you give very little room to success.
Some examples of faulty beliefs are: “I will relapse anyway because my chemical dependence is so severe” or “I am never going to be happy in life”. If you do believe in yourself have the confidence in yourself, you will stay positive and strong while facing challenges. And therefore your chances of success are more.
Many addicts or alcoholics base their recovery on their belief system. If you do believe that your chemical dependence is a major threat to your life and well-being, you will be motivated to work hard towards your recovery. Your belief system can also have an effect on your relationships, your perception of the future and any life events that have occurred or are occurring. Your opinion about anything can be maintained depending on the strength of your belief system irrespective of it being rational or irrational.
It is safe to assume now that your belief guides your behaviour and influences your emotions. If you are aware of your beliefs, then you are in a position to challenge them and change the ones that do not seem rational or healthy. To do so the following methods are usually suggested:
Keep a written journal - The purpose of writing anything down is to increase the awareness of your belief system and practice changing them. This can be a daily exercise.
Focus on your positive thoughts - This is only a small step when practiced everyday to keep yourself positive. Keep in mind to compliment yourself when you get the opportunity to.
Remind yourself of the benefits of recovery - when you feel low and feel you can’t handle your cravings, or are exposed to a stress invoking situation that can make you want to drink or use, always think of the lowest point of your using period and the benefits of staying sober.
Use humour - Laughing at yourself makes you gain a positive approach of yourself and makes you take things lightly. Lighten up and don’t take yourself seriously all the time. These are only simple techniques to challenge your negative thinking. Keep in mind, you will find results only if you practice them daily. Remember, recovery is a process, not an event.