In the first part of this article, Sober Living Success: 13 Thought Patterns that Hinder Recovery (Part One), we discussed the daunting task of living sober. Achieving sobriety isn’t simply the ability to no longer choose drinking or drugging; it’s also the ability to think healthy, to love yourself, to create a life that is fulfilling and meaningful. It’s the ability to recognize those negative patterns of thought and to actually think differently.
In the first article of this two-part series, three of thirteen negative thinking patterns were shared. This article will include the remaining ten. As mentioned in the first article, the point of including them here is to provide you with the opportunity to recognize them in yourself. This way, when you get stuck there, you can say to yourself, “Hey, wait, I know this pattern! And I know better! I can change my thinking now!”
The point of presenting them here is to empower you to make a new thought choice.
Jumping to Conclusions: Many addicts have an external locus of control, feeling that power exists outside of them instead of within. Because of this, there is often a tendency to jump to conclusions regarding self-worth, ability, and achievement. You’re in the habit of saying, “I can’t,” or “I would but…”
Self-Labeling – The more you procrastinate, the more you say to yourself that you can’t, and the more you label yourself as inferior and unworthy.
Undervaluing the Rewards – You feel that whatever rewards there are in life, those that might come with long-term sobriety or with achieving your dreams, isn’t worth the effort and so you don’t try. You don’t progress and you don’t make choices that affirm your life.
Perfectionism – You beat yourself because you have inappropriate standards, which also keep you from achieving what you want.
Fear of Failure – This is the pattern to refuse to try. You imagine that putting in the effort and not succeeding keeps you from beginning to reach for your dreams.
Fear of Success – This thinking pattern is due to a lack of confidence. Success seems more dangerous than failure because of a lack of confidence in oneself to handle the benefits and the responsibilities of success.
Fear of Disapproval or Criticism – In a way, this is not only a pattern of thought, but also a negative pattern of the imagination. You imagine that your efforts will be judged, criticized, and harshly evaluated. There’s a tendency to believe that those around you won’t accept your human tendencies and your imperfections.
Coercion and Resentment – This is a pattern of forcing yourself into performing at high standards. You coerce yourself to perform from a pressure that is created within and an imagined pressure from without to be of the highest standards. This is filled with “shoulds” and “have to’s”.
Low Frustration Tolerance – The frustration that many addicts have is the type that results from comparing the way things are now with an imagined way things should be. When they don’t match, you not only feel frustrated, but also criticize reality.
Guilt and Shame – There’s a tendency to stay stuck in the belief that you’ve done something wrong and that you have let others down. The only way to get out of this is to finally stop judging yourself and to remove the idea that you’ve done anything wrong.
As mentioned in the first article, it takes a lot of energy to change direction in life and in your thought patterns. Really, the only way to do this is to become more and more conscious of your thinking habits. Once you’re aware of those negative thoughts and patterns of thinking then, and only then, you can change them!
This is why paying close attention to your present circumstances is so important, versus unconsciously making similar choices to those you made in the past. What helps is staying keenly aware of what you are doing while you are doing it in order to facilitate finding a different, healthier thought. Sure, carrying out thinking patterns that are positive and healthy may be challenging at the start, but with practice, they too can become habitual. Just like the sailboat that is able to make its turn through the powerful wind and waves, you too can use the power within you to become healthy and happy, and stay sober for many years to come.
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