The link between what a person thinks and what they do is undeniable. In the early stages of recovery, being aware of how your thoughts affect your emotions and behavior becomes more important than ever.
This is because recovery not only involves staying sober, it also challenges you to change unhealthy ways of thinking that has caused you suffer in your life. Addiction is one byproduct of irrational thinking, and there are many other maladaptive behaviors that unhealthy thinking inevitably creates.
During the early stages of recovery, an individual is especially vulnerable to falling under the influence of these kinds of thoughts as well as the uncomfortable emotions they bring. Loneliness, hopelessness, boredom, and depression are just a few of the things you may feel as you move through recovery.
It's important to educate yourself about these things by going to therapy, reading books and articles about recovery, and talking with others in recovery about their experiences. Taking good care of your health is another effective way to guard yourself against falling back into old patterns of unhealthy behavior.
Exercise and diet are important for keeping your body strong, while meditation, journaling, and therapy keep your mind focused and more relaxed. Understanding how certain thoughts lead to irrational behavior is essential too.
How unhealthy thinking and behavior can hurt recovery:
-Increases the chances of a relapse by leading a person back to old habits and behaviors.
-Keeps a person from facing reality, thus preventing them from making any constructive changes.
-Leads to more pain and suffering for the person in recovery and for those around them.
-Can lead to other types of addiction such as workaholism, exercise or sex addiction.
-Keeps a person engaged in negative inner dialogues that keep them from making any real progress on developing self esteem, self worth, and other qualities critical to recovery.
It's also important to understand the nature of these thoughts so you can recognize them as they arise and stop them from having a damaging effect on your recovery. Some common types of irrational thoughts include:
-A sense of grandiosity, where a person possesses an exaggerated sense of importance and demands attention from others.
-A tendency toward magical thinking, or believing that performing certain rituals will keep bad things from occurring. When these rituals begin to take over a person's life, it can pose a serious threat to health and well being.
-Self centeredness, in the form of thinking that every event that occurs somehow has something to do with them.
-Having an all or nothing approach to life, where people, events, and other things either fall into the category of being good or bad without any gray area in between.
-Delusional thinking, where a person believes wholeheartedly in things that are otherwise considered irrational.
-A paranoid approach to life and relationships, which is another form of self centeredness in the way it places the individual at the center of every occurrence.
There are many ways to change the your thought patterns and encourage healthier behavior during the early stages of recovery:
-Be open to criticism and challenges. Instead of responding to them as attacks, learn to view them as opportunities to grow and develop into a better person.
-Learn to be more objective about yourself and your behavior. This allows you to see things more realistically and discard unhealthy behaviors in order to make way for healthier ones.
-Take responsibility during conflicts. It can be so easy to blame another person when things get difficult, but taking a critical look at your own behavior can mean taking responsibility for how you may have played a part in the conflict as well.
-Learn to separate your identity from your beliefs. This means you will be able to take criticism well without reacting defensively.
-Stay in touch with thoughts and emotions through mindful activities such as meditation, yoga, and journaling.