How Negative Self-Talk Keeps You from Recovery

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No one wants to be addicted, and those who are tend to have irrational self-beliefs and engage in regular negative self-talk. They say things to themselves like, “I’m stupid,” or “I’ll never get clean, I don’t have enough self-will,” or “I’m not worth of a better life. This is what I deserve.” This defeating behavior is common, and if let go, can keep you from achieving recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction.

How Negative Self-Talk Impacts You

When it comes to addiction, negative self-talk tends to be full of shame, and when you feel shameful, it’s hard to move forward. You become resistant to change and don’t want to do it because you keep telling yourself you’re going to fail. This fear of failure holds you back, dissuading you from showing the world what you already know—that you’re a failure—so you don’t change. And without change, there is no growth or recovery.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The thing about addiction and negative thinking is that they work together to keep you down. You tell yourself you’re no good and worthless. These thoughts are powerful and you believe them. This makes you depressed and you begin to feel hopeless. So you use and getting high makes you forget. Until you’re sober again, and then you feel worse than before and say things to yourself like, “You won’t ever be able stay clean; you’re not strong enough.” These thoughts make your feel even more worthless and hopeless. The negative self-talk gets worse, and eventually drives you to use. And it goes on and on, an endless cycle of guilt, shame, and drug use.

Signs of Stinking Thinking

Negative self-talk, often called “Stinking Thinking” in the recovery world, holds you back from recovery by halting the necessary changes you need to make. Here are some of the ways it manifests.

  • Black and white thinking: for the addict or alcoholic, there is no gray, everything is black or white, right or wrong. There is no middle ground.
  • No self-forgiveness: If you can’t forgive yourself when you make a mistake, you’re never going to be able to live a life in recovery. Real people make mistakes every day. It’s not about the mistake; it’s about moving forward and not giving up.
  • Impossible expectations: When you set the bar too high for even the best to reach, you’re setting yourself up for failure. In early recovery, setting impossible expectations makes you more likely to relapse and fall back to negative behaviors when you don’t meet them.
  • Pessimism about the future: Negative self takes makes it hard to stay optimistic, and instead of looking forward to the future, people begin to dread it, insisting it will be bad.

Stopping Negative Self-Talk

If you want to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, you have to overcome your negative self-talk. This is a must for a life in recovery, because if you don’t stop beating yourself up, you’ll never have a chance to heal.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a short-term therapeutic approach designed to prevent relapse and point out errors in thinking. By breaking down the thought, feeling, and action connection, CBT allows you to recognize your negative thoughts and test them for truth. Once you realize the negative thoughts aren’t true, you can work on recognizing and moving beyond them.