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7 Habits That May Seem Harmless but Can Damage Your Recovery


recoveryMost people who are recovering from an addiction problem do not deliberately sabotage their own efforts. One reasons it can happen though is that the individual is actually ambivalent towards recovery, meaning that he or she can subconsciously self-sabotage. Another common reason why many end up going off-track and putting their sobriety in danger is by doing things that they believe are harmless, whereas in reality these habits are actually very dangerous.

What you do is just as important as what you don’t do when it comes to building a new life free from alcohol and drug abuse. The problem is that it is so easy to slip into bad habits that are damaging your recovery without even realising it. This is why constant vigilance and the willingness to work to remove any bad habits are so important. Here are seven habits that can, on the face of it, appear harmless, but may be putting your new life in real jeopardy.

1. An Inner Dialogue of Steady Self-Criticism

One of the worst habits to have in recovery could be completely missed because it is there all the time. If people was constantly criticising you and putting you down then you would probably soon get sick of them, cutting them out of your life. Yet this is what you may be getting from the voice that is prattling away in your head. This voice tells you that you doomed when things start to go wrong, yet takes all the credit when you pull yourself out of the mess. This voice can make you suspicious of the motives of your loved ones and, within a few minutes, make you feel guilty for these suspicions. It is similar to sharing a room with a dangerous, crazy person, only this room is inside your head.

This habit of reacting to this inner dialogue of self-criticism and negativity needs to be overcome. One effective way of doing this is by practicing mindfulness. This technique allows you to look at your thoughts in a more objective way, giving you more control over them. It is also important to develop self-compassion, and there are techniques to help you do this as well.

2. Romancing the Drink or Drug

What’s the harm in enjoying the memories of those days when alcohol or drugs seemed to be making you happy? Memories like sitting in a beer garden on a warm summer day with your friends and having a laugh. How can thinking about this stuff be dangerous? It’s not as if you are actually doing anything wrong. The problem with nostalgia of this type is that it weakens your commitment to recovery. If you have this sort of memory at the wrong time, you might not be able to resist the temptation to relapse. You also need to understand that memory can be tricky, almost manipulative, and that perfect memory of drinking or drug use is likely to be one huge exaggeration.

It is not possible to stop memories of drinking or drug using from appearing in your mind, but you can respond to them by remembering how much this behaviour harmed you. Remembering all the pain and suffering caused by your addiction can turn your nostalgia into a far less dangerous foe.

3. Being Cynical

A cynic is a person who is always sceptical of the motives of others, usually meaning to assume the worse all the time. It could involve distrusting anyone who offers to help you and automatically dismissing what others have to say. Those becoming trapped in addiction often use cynicism as a mechanism to protect their ego. By mistrusting the motives of others, it becomes much easier to dismiss what they say without having to worry that there might be some truth in it. Cynicism becomes a habit, meaning that you are unable to get the help you need to build a better life. A better strategy in life is known as the ‘principle of charity’ – this means that you give people the benefit of the doubt and always assume the best motives until proven otherwise.

4. Arrogance and Close-Mindedness

Building a good life away from addiction requires acknowledging that many of the things you believe about life are wrong. In order for this acknowledgment to manifest, you need to develop humility. This can be hard for those in the early stages of recovery because arrogance is another coping strategy that those trapped in addiction tend to use. In Alcoholics Anonymous there is a saying, ‘my best thinking got me here’. It is vital that you are able to open your mind to new ideas about life. This does not mean you have to just accept what others say, but a ‘try it and see’ approach will get you further than ‘I know it all already’.

5. Stinking Thinking

Stinking thinking refers to a pattern of interacting with the world that would be considered very negative. It can involve things like cynicism, arrogance, pessimism, distrust, ill will, and Schadenfruede (this is the satisfaction one gets from seeing others fail). The person developing the habit of stinking thinking can be convinced that he or she is just being realistic, and it is possible to come up with lots of justifications for this way of seeing things. The problem is that this way of looking at the world is likely to lead to relapse or, at the very least, preventing the person from making progress in recovery – it can often lead to depression. The way to overcome stinking thinking is to develop a more positive outlook on life as well as learning to be compassionate.

6. The Need to Be Right

Not only people in recovery suffer due to the need to be right – it is part of the modern human condition. If you go to almost any online discussion group, you will find individuals arguing about topics as if their very life depended on it. This happens because people identify with their beliefs so intently that they view any contradiction to these beliefs as a personal threat. Some people enjoy these debates online or in the real world, but these can frequently lead to bad feelings and upset. If you are recovering from an addiction, ‘the need to be right’ might be a luxury you cannot afford right now. It is much better to focus your scepticism on your own beliefs and ideas.

7. Spending Time with Drinking and Drug Using Friends

Cutting yourself off from friends is never easy, but you do not need to ignore anyone in order to build a better life. What is really needed is that you limit your contact as much as possible with those still abusing alcohol or drugs. The reason is that if you spend too much time with these individuals, they are likely to weaken your recovery. It is a common belief that humans become the average of the five people they spend most of their time with so, if you are serious about building a new life free of addiction, you need to be spending more time around those who have what you want. If you see an old drinking buddy, you don’t have to hide from them or cross to the other side of the street, but you do need to be careful about how much time you spend with this person.

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