Overcoming Negative Thinking During Recovery

It is said that, on an average, 60,000 thoughts cross our mind every single day. Underlying these thoughts are our beliefs  that have been shaped by many people, factors, and life experiences. These beliefs could be based around a number of things in your life.

If you constantly find yourself doubting your capabilities, believing you are worthless or inadequate, you will lack the confidence to make a successful recovery. You may downplay your own strengths and achievements, mired in thoughts like “I’ll never be able to overcome my dependence” or “I’m never going to succeed in life.” This kind of thinking prevents you from taking risks and leaves little room for success.

A major part of recovering from chemical dependence involves believing that chemical dependence is a major threat to your life. This makes you work harder towards your recovery. Thinking recovery is a matter of merely abstaining from using will stop you from turning yourself and your life around for the better. Irrational beliefs around chemical dependence include “It will never happen to me because I’ll limit my use” or “Recovery is easy” or “Recovery is not worth the hassle.”

As an addict, one is prone to use unfortunate life events as excuses to drink or use drugs again. These events could range from something as small as a flat tyre to something as major as loss of a loved one. Regardless of the event, your belief about it determines how you will perceive and act towards it. If you believe life should always be easy and go according to you, even the slightest inconvenience could push you towards the bottle. Conversely, a happy event could give you a cause to celebrate by drinking or using.

Many addicts also have one of two opposing beliefs about the future- either they believe it is completely in their control or that it is absolutely out of their control. Being deluded about complete lack of control enables them to feel helpless and make no plans; and tightly holding onto control pushes them towards using when something going against their plans. The key here is to believe you have some control over what happens to you and complete control over how you respond to it.

Besides holding some irrational beliefs, you may also be stuck using some distorted ways of thinking (cognitive distortions) that are supporting your chemical dependence. If you often find yourself seeing things in all-or-none categories, you may be using black and white thinking. For example, “My recovery is going terrible.” To overcome this, you have to start looking at things in terms of degrees rather than absolutes. For example, “My recover is going a little poorly.”

Sometimes, you may make “mountains out of molehills” and see minor inconveniences as major problems. In this case, it could help you to look at the big picture rather than just one or two aspects of it.

Expecting the worst to happen by jumping to conclusions and ignoring the positives of a situation while only concentrating on the negatives will bog you down and make the recovery process all the more tiresome. Always try to look at all the evidence and aspects of the situation to prevent getting stuck in these ways of thinking.

Avoid attaching negative labels (like ‘failure,’ ‘loser,’ etc.) to yourself and blaming yourself  for every little thing that goes wrong you. Cut yourself some slack and take it easy. Treat yourself with as much as care as you would to any of your loved ones. A good rule of thumb here is to not say something to yourself that you would not tell your best friend.

There are many things that you can do to change your negative beliefs require no money and just a little effort. You could write a journal to keep track of your progress and setbacks to see things in a more objective light and to release negative energy from your mind. Catch yourself when you think something negative and consciously try to change it into a positive thought. Compliment yourself on your efforts, even if you fail to accomplish a task. Lighten up and do not shy away from making fun of yourself. But most importantly, keep reminding yourself of the benefits of recovery. It will help you get through your rough patches, when recovery seems like the most difficult thing in the world.