In recovery, the goal every day is to live out the best version of your life. This can be more or less challenging depending on the events of the day, but in most cases, no matter what happens, you have the power to determine how you will process whatever comes your way. The choices you make can have an incredible impact on your ability to stay sober. Decisions that may seem miniscule can add up to big frustrations, stress, or irritations that can ultimately trigger cravings and/or relapse.
The good news is that, though you cannot always control what happens to you during the day, you can control how you respond. The not-so-good news is that you may be inadvertently sabotaging your ability to stay sober by those very choices.
Are you sabotaging yourself in recovery? Here are a few ways to identify how you may be standing in your own way and what you can do differently.
Are You Engaging in Negative Self-Talk?
If you think that it is humble or honest to continually downplay your abilities, undersell your accomplishments, or call yourself names (e.g., “I’m just stupid,” or “I never do anything right.”), you may be cutting your ability to make positive choices short before you even get started. No matter what you may feel about your choices while in active addiction, today is a new day, and it can be the start of looking at things with a fresh and positive perspective.
Tip: Make a list of all the negative things you say about yourself to yourself or to others. Leave room in between each one, because your next task is to transform the negative statements into positive statements about your abilities. Whenever you catch yourself using the usual negative self-talk, stop yourself and replace it with your new positive statement – every time.
Are You Carrying Negative Energy around with You?
It may be your way of protecting yourself from potential conflict or judgment from others, but negative energy for any reason will do little to help you get where you want to be in your life. In relationships with others, in your ability to craft a new future for yourself, and even in just being with yourself, the negativity is infectious and can permeate every part of your day.
Tip: Check in with yourself a few times a day. Start when you get up in the morning and every few hours. If you notice that you are uncomfortable for a specific reason (e.g., hungry, tired, or in pain) then try to address the issue. If you are just feeling “off” and irritable, and you cannot immediately discern the cause, do what you can to lift your mood by changing your surroundings, turning on uplifting music, or watching something funny on YouTube.
Are You Holding onto a Negative Self History?
Almost no one is proud of all the choices they made during active addiction. Lack of impulse control and a drive to get and stay high usually set the stage for hurtful and damaging choices. Additionally, abuse and trauma may be part of your addiction history as well. It is easy to allow feelings of guilt, shame, or anger to pervade your new life in sobriety, but these feelings will thwart your efforts to stay sober and balanced.
Tip: Rewrite your story. Literally, write out your remembered version of events from the past that are plaguing you, then rewrite those same events so they are just part of the story, highlighting the outcome you wish to experience in your life: a stronger, wiser, and more focused you who has learned from the past and is ready to move on.
Are Your Emotions Doing Your Decision-Making for You?
Having an emotional response to something unexpected or unwanted is normal. Allowing those emotions to dictate how you choose to handle that situation, however, can lead to choices that are harmful emotionally and sometimes physically damaging as well.
For example, if your emotional response to sadness, trauma, or irritation causes you to binge eat, you could end up with health problems, low energy, and a decreased sense of self-confidence in your ability to manage the causative situation healthfully.
If your emotional response to anger causes you to scream and yell or become physical with someone, you could end up losing your bonds with people close to you, getting hurt physically, and/or getting arrested for assault.
Emotions are essential because they let us know that something is off and must be addressed, but they are also signals that we need to pause, take a breath, and figure out what is wrong and what needs to be changed in order to identify a positive solution that will not create more problems in the process.
Are You Strengthening Yourself in Recovery?
No matter what your past choices have been in recovery, you always have today, right now, to begin making changes that will increase your ability to stay sober and strengthen your foundation in your new life. What changes will you make to help yourself avoid relapse and have a more peaceful, balanced experience in sobriety?