Hardwired Thinking. Sabotaging Addiction Recovery

How NOT to sabotage Addiction Recovery

Addictions are notoriously difficult to break. The word ‘addiction’ itself suggests an inability to stop doing something. But what makes it so hard to simply change our habits? 

Traditional explanations refer to the chemical hooks that are delivered by drugs such as alcohol and nicotine, and these are both real and significant. 

Our minds embrace self-destructive habits that serve to reinforce addiction. Taking back control of ourselves requires the right recovery skills, combined with a considerable effort to steer our minds in a more positive direction. In order to succeed in recovery you must learn to recognise the cognitive distortions that threaten to derail you. 

By learning about these mental obstacles, you can identify them as they occur and put in practice effective methods of getting our minds back on the right track. 

It is common enough for people to feel failure and disappointment in themselves, particularly if their addictions have caused them to let down their colleagues or loved ones. For some, this sense of self-criticism can be a motivating factor, helping them turn their lives around.

For others, however – and particularly when the negative feelings become overwhelming – the self-criticism can become distorted and out of proportion, leading to relapse.

This post will highlight five cognitive distortions/ warning signs to watch out for....


#001. Focusing only on the negative. 

There is good and bad in any situation.

People who find themselves consistently embracing the most negative interpretations of events are likely to be experiencing a cognitive distortion. 

Addiction recovery requires a positive outlook above all, and this means being optimistic and embracing positive mental habits with an eye toward a future whose benefits are worth the effort needed to attain them. 

Change your outlook! 


#002. Magnifying blame. 

When something goes wrong, there may be a temptation to blame others – or yourself – for causing the problem.

While blame may be appropriate in many situations, there is a real possibility of blowing it out of proportion.

People experiencing cognitive distortions are much more likely to latch on to the idea of assigning responsibility for failure , leading to resentment and anger…...and relapse.


#003. Eliminating shades of gray 

Success, happiness and social behaviour are best measured as part of a spectrum, where progress is continuous and it doesn’t matter whether failures are big or small.

A commonly seen cognitive distortion is the tendency to flatten outcomes into simple black and white.

Making a social mistake can be unhelpful, and having a drink when you promised not to can be a setback. 

But there is a real danger in thinking ‘I’m a failure’ after each mistake, because doing so can lead you to give up on the entire effort.


#004. Embracing simple labels 

Severe judgments about yourself or other people can lead to unfair evaluations.

Each one of us has our strengths and weaknesses, and none of us can accurately be defined by our worst act.

Labelling other people can get in the way of the human connection we may be able to develop with them, and labelling ourselves can end up limiting what we believe we are capable of. 


#005. Expecting disaster

The future is a mystery to all of us, and some things will indeed go badly. 

But when the expectation of failure becomes a habit or an instinct, the brain gets stuck in a rut of negativity and has a difficult time finding a way out. Such an attitude results in higher stress levels, lower motivation, and an increase in wasted energy. 

A bad outcome could reinforce your negative preconceptions about yourself and your life, causing you to lean into your addiction even more. 

Finding a way forward into a positive outlook is necessary to beat addiction, and to achieve a more complete sense of happiness. 

Change your outlook!


Watch the Video.


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