For many recovering addicts, one of the biggest struggles faced in getting clean is fighting the strong and incessant impulses they feel to use or engage in otherwise harmful behavior. When one is addicted to drugs, their brains become fixated on obtaining more drugs, and they may feel very strong urges to act in a way that is dangerous to their health. These urges do not necessarily diminish as an addict stops using and begins to work through a recovery program. This is one of the reasons that maintaining sobriety is a constant effort that gets easier, but does not ever completely go away. In order to stay sober and continue to work toward health, it is necessary to identify when one is having destructive thoughts and to train oneself not to succumb to them. For many recovering addicts, the best way to do this is by using “contrary action,” or the process by which a person recognizes an impulse they are having and chooses to act in the complete opposite way. Contrary action can be a wonderfully effective tool in maintaining sobriety. Here are five ways contrary action can help an addict on the road to recovery.
1. Building Confidence In Decision Making
Contrary action is a wonderful tool in strengthening decision making skills because every time one recognizes a destructive impulse and chooses to act counter to it, they train themselves to realize that they do in fact have control over their impulses, and that they have power over urges to use. The more frequently the brain is programmed with this message, the easier it becomes for an addict to ignore strong impulses.
2. Increasing Self Confidence
Many addicts are used to feelings of helplessness when it comes to controlling certain behaviors. Many well intentioned individuals feel a strong desire to stop using and are frustrated when they find themselves unable to control their actions. This perceived inability to control actions can lead to feelings of low self worth, which further fuels addiction. Displaying the ability to act one way while feeling another increases confidence and self esteem.
3. One Good Decision Leads To Another
As an addict uses contrary action, they begin to associate behaving counter to impulses with making rewarding decisions. One may not feel like going to the gym, for example, but by using contrary action, they may make themselves and find that after going to the gym, they felt a rewarded. The more times contrary action is associated with this pleasurable feeling, the more likely it will be that contrary action is used in the future.
4. Using Contrary Action Strengthens the Knowledge That Feelings Do Not Need To Be Acted On
Much of addiction is related to emotions and the way in which they impact a person’s comfort and levels of happiness. Drug use is a problem that affects a person’s emotional stability and many people who use feel sensations ranging from severe depression to feelings of euphoria. Drug use may often be a way in which an addict attempts to regulate emotions or diminish the severity of negative feelings or moods.
5. The Need To Use Contrary Action Will Lessen Over Time
As one gets more and more accustomed to acting against actions, they may become more and more accustomed to positive behaviors and their brains will naturally adjust to choosing these positive actions. The more this happens, the more often one may naturally begin to want to make healthy decisions. This does not mean that destructive impulses will go away completely, but rather that they may be more infrequent and easy to resist.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact us.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.