The things you believe in during your early stages of recovery may be based upon negative thinking that occurred during your active drug and/or alcohol addiction. In early recovery, these negative thoughts can lead us down a destructive path toward relapse. For example, if you get clean and sober but return home to unpaid bills, you may experience fear, guilt or shame. You may wonder, “Why did I get clean only to face this mess?” and be tempted to use again to avoid your responsibilities. It is important to remember that your problems will not go away, in fact, they may even worsen if you relapse.
Old responses need to be changed in order to ensure long-term success in your recovery. Not everything wrong in your life is your fault, but you must be willing to acknowledge that your behavior in the past may have been problematic. The ability to admit and acknowledge is a process that occurs slowly but surely, one day at a time. The longer you stay focused on “doing the next right thing”, the better your chances of moving forward in your recovery and maintaining abstinence. Using tools such as a spiritual practice and daily affirmations can help you replace negative or destructive thoughts. Sharing your thoughts with other people, such as those in your support group, can help you with your negative thoughts as well. They can tell you how they negotiated their feelings and thoughts in early recovery and replaced them with healthier patterns of behavior.
Should you find yourself succumbing to negative thinking, understand that “Your feelings are not facts. They are feelings.” You are capable of change. You are capable of living free of drugs and alcohol on a daily basis. Replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones can make a huge difference in how you feel and what actions you take.
You think: “I can’t do this, it is too hard. I am not good at change. I always fail.”
You feel: Like a loser. Like a failure.
You take an action: You decide to drink to escape your feelings and thoughts.
You think: Recovery is scary and I don’t understand it. But, I can learn to do it.
You feel: Optimistic, encouraged, and hopeful.
You take an action: You start doing affirmations daily.
The challenges in early recovery may initially seem overwhelming, but each challenge can be met with strength, courage and positive thinking. You can avoid the pitfalls of negative thinking that more often than not lead to relapse. You can take control of your recovery, your thoughts, your feelings and your actions.
If you relapse, you need to go through a medically monitored drug or alcohol detox followed by a comprehensive drug or alcohol treatment program. Not all treatment programs are the same nor do they all provide addicts with the professional care enabling them to explore the underlying issues behind their drug or alcohol abuse. Furthermore, not all treatment programs provide addicts with the tools, life skills or aftercare plans that allow them to cope with the challenges of early recovery. Treatment works. Aftercare works. Change happens. Addiction can be arrested and recovery solidified.
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