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Dangers of Self-Pity When Recovering From Addiction


Life can be incredibly unfair sometimes. You can do your best but still not end up with the reward you were expecting. It would be easy to justify feelings of self-pity if it wasn’t for the fact that every person on the planet will also be facing similar unfairness. The truth is that self-pity is a luxury that people in recovery cannot afford because it can so easily lead back to addiction.

What is Self-Pity?

To say that a person is experiencing self-pity means that he/she is emotionally upset due to the experiences of suffering, hardship, and unfairness. It means that people are focused on their problems in a very negative way so that they feel out of control. Self-pity involves viewing the world as a very hostile place and feeling extremely vulnerable. It usually involves a distortion of reality and an exaggeration of the harm that has been endured.

A little self-pity every now and again is to be expected. Sometimes humans need to stop and lick their wounds. The problem is that people with an addictive personality will be at risk of allowing this self-pity to take over their thinking. It becomes a drain on their motivation and it can pull them down into a hole from which it will be very difficult to escape.

Dangers of Self-Pity in Recovery

Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have a powerful saying: ‘poor me, poor me, pour me a drink’. If you become full of self-pity, it can mean that you become dissatisfied with your life in recovery. You may decide that you have tried your best but it just hasn’t turned out the way you wanted it, therefore you have the justification to relapse. It is often the case that people will deliberately look for reasons to feel sorry for themselves so they can have the excuse to return to addiction; this can also happen subconsciously.

Self-pity means that people see themselves as passive victims in a hostile world. It creates a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. If you become convinced that it is not possible for you to improve your situation, why would you even try? People who fall into the trap of self-pity no longer are motivated to go forward, so they usually end up slipping backwards.

Self-pity is a way to avoid taking responsibility for your life. It can lead to a type of learned helplessness where you can become dependent on other people to fix you; the problem is that the only person who can fix you is you. Self-pity is a drain on self-esteem and the longer the person allows this emotion to control their life, the worst it can get. It is like digging a hole in the ground – the more the person digs the harder it will be for them to escape.

It can be hard to be around those who are full of self-pity. These individuals can be toxic because they attempt to pull other people down into negativity with them. Let’s face it; excessive self-pity is an unattractive personality trait and the person who is like this all the time will struggle to build relationship.

Causes of Self-pity in Recovery

The most common reason why people end up dealing with self-pity in recovery is that they have unrealistic expectations. Nobody gets a free ride in life and getting sober does not mean that people are going to escape the vicissitudes of normal living. Those individuals who expect everything to just fall into place once they become sober are likely to hit the ground with a bump. It is definitely possible to build a great life away from alcohol or drugs, but there is a great deal of hard worked involved and plenty of bad days as well as good.

Some will experience self-pity in recovery because they are not fully committed to living a life free of alcohol or drugs. They feel trapped into staying sober but they still secretly yearn for the day when they can safely use their favourite substance again. This person will always look upon recovery as a poor substitute for their former life therefore they are always going to find plenty of things to feel bad about.

Self-pity and Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome refers to a situation where people are physically sober but still carry on in much the same way as they did when they were drinking. This means that their life will still be a mess and their behaviour will continue to be a source of pain for others. Dry drunks will usually be full of self-pity – they will have plenty of excuses for why their life in recovery is not as good as it should be. They will usually be cynical and full of negativity. The dry drunk never considers the possibility that their life is the way it is because of their own actions – it is always the fault of other people, the government, the weather, or just bad luck.

It is common for dry drunks to relapse back to addiction but a surprising number of them do manage to stay sober long term. It is not a particularly happy existence though because the self-pity means that the person views recovery as a type of prison sentence. They will be jealous of those who seem to be doing well in recovery and secretly hoping that these people fail. The dry drunk will not make any real effort to change their situation because they do not believe there is much they can do to improve things.

How to Avoid Self-pity in Recovery

It is not what happens to people that determines their life – it is how they react to what happens to them that does this. Some people will hit a setback, but they will learn from it and come back stronger than they were before. Other people will encounter the exact same setback and just fall into a state of helplessness and self-pity. It is not that one of these people is somehow luckier than others are – it is just that they have reacted to what has happened in a different way.

The secret to do well in recovery is not hoping that everything is going to go your way – what you really want are the tools to be able to deal with whatever comes along. Adversity is what teaches people to be successful, but it only works with those who are willing students. It means recognising the uselessness of self-pity and becoming willing to make the most out of every situation. It means expecting adversity and expecting to be able to handle it.

The expectations that many have in life will have a huge impact on their ability to deal with self-pity. Those who expect to be happy all the time are asking for trouble – this just does not happen. When people understand that both the good and the bad are needed to make a fulfilling life, they will become more willing to deal with life on life’s terms.

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