Frequently it’s a negative thought that leads to drug use. Or it’s a pattern of thinking that continues to encourage drug use. For instance, people frequently end up using drugs or alcohol because they want to escape, relax, or reward themselves. In some way, people use drugs and alcohol to relieve tension.
Yet that tension begins in the mind. Emotional or psychological tension begins within. And for this reason, one of the most significant ways to improve the way you feel is to change your thoughts. In fact, according to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a popular form of therapy in drug treatment, there is a strong relationship between thinking, feeling, and behaving. In short, a thought leads to a feeling and a feeling leads to a thought.
For instance, the thought, “I’m no good at my job” might lead to feeling embarrassment, shame, or disempowerment. Those feelings might lead to calling in sick more often, looking for another job, or even doing things to get fired and go on unemployment. On the other hand, the thought, “I love what I do and I love getting paid for it,” can be empowering. You might begin to feel joyful, more energized, and find yourself volunteering for tasks at work that you might otherwise would have avoided. In other words our thoughts can create our experiences based upon the thought-feeling-behaving cycle.
So, the point here is that by changing your thinking, you can change your feelings and behavior, particularly with respect to drinking or drug use. If you’d like to change your inner experience in order to stay sober, consider using a thought record. It’s a documentation tool for monitoring feelings of anxiety, fear, hurt, anger, shame, guilt, or sadness. Along with noting when and where these feelings were experienced, you would also write down the associated thought you had with that feeling, in a particular situation. Reflecting on the self-talk you had during a specific situation can facilitate finding those thoughts that are harmful and self-defeating. Without this sort of reflection, these damaging thoughts might go unnoticed, and cultivating this sort of awareness is the benefit of CBT.
However, that’s not all. A thought record also invites you to write down an alternative thought – one that is more helpful, realistic, and supportive. For example, instead of “I am worthless”; the new thought might be “I am powerful”. Recovering addicts working with a CBT Therapist would learn that helpful thoughts are those that promote self-acceptance and state preferences versus thoughts that make absolute demands with words like “should” or “must”. Helpful and supportive thoughts are those that promote well being, love, and inner sense of peace.
A recovering addict using a thought record would likely also be encouraged to use their new, alternative thoughts, particularly when in circumstances that typically created negative thoughts. As this process continues and deepens, the next step is to distinguish feelings as well. Just as you become more and more aware of the thoughts that are passing through your mind during particular situations, you can also become more and more aware of your feelings and how they affect your behavior and choices.
For example, emotions such as annoyance, concern, regret, or remorse can be examined to uncover their effects on the choices you’re making. Lastly, a thought record is also used to rate the intensity of emotions, further increasing your awareness of the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. CBT’s ability to increase your awareness also facilitates the ability to stop making choices unconsciously and start to make decisions that support a healthy self-esteem, which is essential for recovery.
If you can uncover the thoughts that lead you to drinking or drug use, you can stop them in their tracks. You might still have the thought, but you don’t have to let them persuade you to drink. Instead, you can think healthier and more loving thoughts, have happier and more pleasant feelings, and make different choices.
To begin your process of inner investigation and change, here’s a thought record to utilize and continue to use until your happy, healthy, and sober.
If you are reading this on any blog other than Transcend Recovery Community or via my RSS Feed, it is stolen content without credit. You can find me on Twitter via @RecoveryRobert Come and visit our blog at http://TranscendRecoveryCommunity.com/blog