Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Changing your inner dialogue. (Recovering from addiction)
I’m such a loser! Why does every bad thing always happen to me? It seems like I never do anything right. Why should I even bother trying? Sound familiar? Negative self-talk results from doing things that go against your morals and principals. When inflicting harm upon yourself or those you love, there’s little value of one’s own life. You may be experiencing a confusing caldron of shame and self–pity, leaving you feeling lonely and misunderstood. Shame is like glue. It’s sticky and messy and gets on everything around you. It’s a painful feeling of humiliation and distress. Shame is different than guilt. Guilt says I made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake. Because shame feels humiliating most of us hide it, which in turn, only makes it bigger thus creating more negative self-talk. Your thoughts are powerful. They control the choices you make and ultimately dictate your feelings, behaviours and relationships. More often than not, you’re unaware of the power you harness through your thinking. When channeled in the right direction, thoughts can attribute good health, a sense of well-being, happiness and promote successful recoveries. But there is a hitch. When you struggle with addiction your thoughts become hijacked by your illness. Simply said, your disease trains your thinking to look at life not as a precious, amazing experience, but as an overwhelmingly, unfair trudge. A system of denial, dishonest thinking, rationalizing, justifying, excusing, avoiding, deflecting, blaming, defensiveness and self-pity, takes place.
So what should you do if you’re addicted and you want to change your life?
First understand that you can’t trust your own thinking. This is a hard pill to swallow. I mean if you can’t trust your own thinking, then who can you trust. Right? Look at it this way. Your thoughts and actions have directed you to where you are right now. You don’t want to be where you are, any more than your family wants you to be there. But you’re there, nonetheless. I’m sure you’ve tried many different ways to manage your addiction. Maybe you’ve limited your cash on a night out, and left your debit and credit cards at home, only to find yourself borrowing money off a friend or going back home to retrieve them. Perhaps you were only going to buy half gram of cocaine and ended up with an eight ball. At the end of each binge you’re as mystified as the rest of your family. You wonder what the hell went wrong, when your intentions were so good. This really is the crux of your problem. If you keep doing and believing the things you’re thinking and doing, you’re doomed. Not because you have a low IQ or you’re slow. There’s nothing wrong with your intelligence. As a matter of fact, you’re smart in a self-reliant, cunning, sort of way. But until you understand and respect the power of your disease and the way it plays out, you don’t stand a chance against it.
Because addiction isn’t about how smart you are, you can’t will yourself well.
Addiction is a brain disease that acts on impulses, conscious and not. It’s like this, addiction is the puppet master pulling the strings, and if you’re doing things you don’t want to be doing – you’ve become the puppet! When you continue using in spite of negative consequences you’re no longer in control of your illness – it controls you! Understanding your defeating thought patterns and correcting them, promotes change. The trick to change is recognizing you don’t have to believe everything you think – to change, you just have to practise new ways. Instead of can’t, use can – even if you don’t believe you can, say it anyway. Instead of beating yourself up with negative self-talk, use positive affirmations. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel worthy, tell yourself you are.
Why would you use words and thoughts that you don’t believe?
Because using positive self-talk will change your brain chemistry and you will begin to think and feel differently.
Using abusive, belittling and negative self-talk, creates more than just words. Your brain chemistry, emotions and physical body are also affected. As Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg, M.D write in their book Words Can Change Your Brain – If you were to be put into an fMRI scanner—a huge donut-shaped magnet that can take a video of the neural changes happening in your brain—and flash the word “NO” for less than one second, you’d see a sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication. In fact, just seeing a list of negative words for a few seconds will make a highly anxious or depressed person feel worse, and the more you ruminate on them, the more you can actually damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions. You’ll disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to experience long-term happiness and satisfaction. If you vocalize your negativity, or even slightly frown when you say “no,” more stress chemicals will be released, not only in your brain, but in the listener’s brain as well. The listener will experience increased anxiety and irritability, thus undermining cooperation and trust. In fact, just hanging around negative people will make you more prejudiced toward others! Now take the above article and magnify it by one hundred and you can see the destruction created by the thinking patterns of addicted individuals and their families.
But there is good news.
CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy can reverse these destructive thought patterns fairly quickly. Learning to identify and replace dishonest thoughts with honest ones, and unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones, gives those people struggling with addiction the best possible outcome in their recovery. If you or someone you love needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 844-451-0263.