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Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Own Recovery?

If you are struggling in recovery, you will need to discover the cause of this resistance or you risk relapsing. It is usual for the first few months of being sober to be full of vicissitudes, but if you feel like it is one long struggle then this is usually a sign that something is wrong. One of the possible reasons why things might be so difficult is that you are self-sabotaging your own recovery.

What is Self-Sabotage?

Self-sabotage refers to a situation where your behaviour is preventing you from reaching your goals. This is usually not something that you will be doing consciously. You may be convinced that you are trying to do the right things, and you are at a complete loss why things are still so hard. The real problem with self-sabotage is that we are usually completely oblivious to it because we are in denial about how much such behaviour is holding us back. It can also be the case that we are not fully committed to recovery, so in this situation we may be deliberately self-sabotaging our own efforts because we want an excuse to relapse back to addiction.

How Do People Self-Sabotage Their Recovery?

There are many potential ways you might be self-sabotaging your own recovery, including those listed below.

  • You may have given up alcohol or drugs but failed to deal with other negative behaviours. Just ending the addiction is usually not enough to guarantee a good life in recovery – it is just the first step.
  • You may be still trying to use coping mechanisms that are not effective, such as becoming angry or trying to ignore problems.
  • A common way that people will self-sabotage their own recovery is by refusing to consider new ideas and new ways of doing things. This closed-minded attitude means the person will not be able to find the path that will help them escape addiction.
  • Some people refuse to face problems that need to be dealt with, preventing them from making any progress. For example, some people will have a dual diagnosis (e.g. depression), but they fail to get treatment for this other condition.
  • Another way that people self-sabotage is by spending too much time with drinking and drug-using friends. This means they are deliberately putting themselves in a situation where they are likely to be tempted.
  • Another common way that people put their recovery in jeopardy is they hold onto the idea that they might one day be able to use alcohol or drugs again. This ambivalence towards recovery means they will usually relapse as soon as things become difficult.
  • Those of us who refuse to let go of our resentments will be putting our new life in danger. We have to be able to walk away from the past in order to build a better future.
  • In order to build a good life in recovery, you will need to take certain steps. If you procrastinate taking these steps, this will be a form of self-sabotage.
  • It is common for people who fall into addiction to be demand-resistant; this means they deliberately stop themselves from achieving goals.
  • Some of us can become too dependent on other people and we can reach a state known as learned helplessness. Other people cannot fix our life, so learned helplessness prevents us from going forward in our new life.


Self-Sabotage and Fear of Change

The most common reason why people will self-sabotage their own recovery is that they fear change. The individual knows that their current situation is far from perfect, but they are scared about taking a step into the unknown. They may believe in the old saying ‘it is better the devil you know’. Facing change involves taking a leap of faith, and this is what people need to do if they want things to improve in their life.

Self-Sabotage and Demand Resistance

One of the aspects of the addictive personality can be demand resistance. This is a situation where we automatically resist any attempt by other people to tell us what to do. We can also be resistant to even our own demands and expectations. It is believed that people develop demand resistance because they grew up in a home where there was unrealistic expectations placed on them. The child becomes overwhelmed because they cannot meet the expectations of their parents, but they are able to deal with things by becoming resistant to all demands. Demand resistance is very dangerous for people who are trying to break away from addiction because it can mean that they actively work to sabotage their own goals. The way to overcome demand resistance is to be aware of it, and to start responding to demands in a more positive way. If demand resistance is really getting in the way of your recovery, it is a good idea to get help from a therapist.

Self-Sabotage and Ambivalence to Recovery

Another very common reason why people will self-sabotage their own recovery is that they are ambivalent about staying sober. The fact that they are not fully committed means the person is looking for a way out – an excuse they can use to return to alcohol or drugs. The signs that you may be ambivalent in recovery include:

  • having a pessimistic outlook about your future in recovery
  • feeling cynical about people who are building a good life away from alcohol or drugs
  • frequently romancing the drink or drug – this means that you allow yourself to think about the ‘good days’ you had when abusing these substances
  • resenting the fact that you are not able to drink or take drugs
  • viewing recovery as being similar to serving a prison sentence – you may even count off the days like you were in prison
  • continuing to admire people who abuse alcohol or drugs
  • being resistant to any type of support in recovery
  • not feeling the need to make any other changes in your life other than stopping the substance abuse
  • continuing to act in much the same way you did when you were drinking and drug using
  • joking around about relapsing
  • trying to threaten other people by telling them you will relapse if you don’t get your way
  • tending to be very negative about things.

Ambivalence will prevent you from making any progress in recovery. The way to overcome it is to completely get rid of the idea that you will ever be able to drink or use drugs safely again. Once you see that recovery is your only option, you will be prepared to work harder to make it a good life.

Self-Sabotage and Fear of Failure

Another reason why people fail in their own recovery is that they fear failure. This can be a very subtle form of self-sabotage. It means that you are afraid of trying your very best in case you find out that your best isn’t good enough. By not fully committing to recovery, it means that if you fail, you will have the excuse of not trying your best. You will likely feel better about failing if you haven’t really tried. This attitude means that you will never be able to make any progress in life. It is only by giving your all and risking failure that you can ever succeed.

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