In many ways, addiction is a process of self-destruction. Drug and alcohol addictions produce serious consequences that can create chaos, isolate individuals, destroy relationships, harm families – and potentially even worse. Despite knowing that these consequences are not only possible but likely, those in active addiction continue down the dangerous path of self-sabotage. In active addiction, the pattern of self-sabotage is a cycle on repeat. However, beyond addiction and into the process of recovery, many people find themselves reverting back to these dangerous and familiar thoughts and behaviors.
The Comfort Of Destruction
Why is it that so many people on the path to recovery find themselves reverting back to old ways? The answer is simple: Self-destruction is comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s what we know. During active addiction, we often feel that the negative consequences of our drug or alcohol use were warranted: We deserve the pain. We deserve the unhappiness. We deserve to be alone, unemployed, homeless or miserable. When we enter the road to recovery, we don’t just immediately stop thinking this way. It takes time. But in the meantime, that old soundtrack can find ways to creep back in: “I don’t deserve this happiness.” “My family was happier when I was gone.” “I’m not the right person for this job.” “I’m not worth this.” There are a number of ways that you may be sabotaging your own addiction recovery that you may not even realize:
- Stress. Everyone in this world experiences stress in one way or another. However, those who struggle with addiction issues sometimes also struggle with dealing with stress in a healthy way. Understand that completing rehab is a huge accomplishment – but it’s only the first step in restoring a balanced life. Returning to and normalizing work, relationships, finances and work can be overwhelmingly stressful. For this reason, many people – especially in the early stages of recovery will resort to self-sabotage and substance.
- Negative-Thinking. When one person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, all of those around him or her can be caught in a wave of destruction. However, the number one target for negativity is often self-inflicted. Those in active addiction pile judgment and hatred onto themselves, telling themselves that they aren’t good enough or don’t deserve a better life. In recovery, these thoughts of hopelessness and depression can creep right back into your life. While it can be difficult to turn off this negative thinking, allowing it to continue to play out can lead you off track of your recovery.
- Isolation. Just like addiction, isolation can be a dangerous cycle – feeding loneliness and depression. Isolating yourself from family and friends increases the likelihood that you’ll revert to point #2 above.
- Self-Pity. It may seem convoluted to experience both self-sabotage and self-pity, but when it comes to addiction, both play a major role. Self-pity extinguishes any confidence and diminishes motivation because instead of taking blame for your responsibilities and actions, you’ll tear yourself down for those mistakes, blame others and feel bad for yourself.
- Bottled Emotions. One of the biggest reasons we turn to drugs and alcohol is to cope with difficult feelings or emotions. Instead of dealing with the problem at hand, we find a quick “fix” that doesn’t actually solve anything. In recovery, it’s easy to slip back into the habit of avoiding tough feelings, conversations or emotions. Doing so, however, makes it that much more tempting to return to drugs and alcohol.
- Guilt. Shame and guilt, if carried with you into your recovery, can be a major trigger to relapse. It is likely that you are very well aware that in your addiction, you didn’t just hurt yourself, but you caused pain to those who love you. Mulling over the past won’t allow you freedom, and it certainly won’t help you to be proactive. It’s hard to do or think anything positive when you carry around guilt. Self-punishment will only lead to self-sabotage.
- Refusing Help. Denial is part of what kept you in active addiction. In recovery, denial can be just as detrimental. By refusing to acknowledge any of the above may be bothering you, or by withdrawing into yourself, or pushing family and friends away – you’ll lack the support system if something does go wrong in your recovery. Allow family, friends, mentors, sponsors – whoever you feel comfortable with – to be a part of your recovery and healing. You’ll find that when you are having a bad day, you don’t have to do that bad day alone with your negative thinking, guilt, self-pity or stress.