Negative thought patterns can and do impact your sobriety–and your life.
We all have a constant internal dialogue going on in our heads. Becoming aware of our thoughts is imperative for living a content, sober life. The law of attraction states that our thoughts make our reality. Therefore, if we think positively, positive things will occur. On the other hand, if our thinking pattern is negative, we will perceive the things and people around us in a negative way. “Stinking thinking” is the term coined in twelve-step programs for negative self-talk. Stinking thinking can make our life and world miserable and lead us right into a relapse.
There are many types of negative thinking. Here a just a few:
- Resentment about past events, actions, or people
- Self-pity instead of gratefulness
- Unwillingness to forgive others and oneself for past mistakes and/or failures
- High expectations of others and oneself. This is not negative in itself, but when our expectations are not met, the key is not to think negatively about the situation. We need to accept that the people involved have done the best they could with what they have and understand that we are all here to learn lessons.
- Being overly critical of others and oneself
- Complaining about things that won’t matter in the long run
- Holding on to anger
- Constantly remembering negative situations in the past
Oftentimes people get stuck in addiction to mask the feelings they are having within themselves. Negative thought patterns may be hard to break. Even after a person puts down the drink or drug, the most important thing is to maintain emotional sobriety. For many in recovery, this is a process of catching oneself thinking negatively and changing the thought. We need to learn when enough is enough, and, when we have done our best, to accept that. Perfectionism gets us nowhere if it makes us miserable. These types of thinking are fatal to a person in recovery. It leads a person to be unsatisfied with their life, which can lead to inner and outer conflict and even depression. When a person gets stuck in stinking thinking, no wonder they relapse! Sobriety is supposed to make us feel better, not worse, right?
When the “pink cloud” (the term for the beginning of sobriety when we have overcome the drug/alcohol addiction and life is wonderful) begins to fade, and the negative thoughts roll in, there are tools the twelve-step programs give us to overcome and get through.
Many of these little sayings may seem cliche, but they really do work.
- H.A.L.T. – This is the acronym for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. If negative self-talk is creeping in, check to see if any of these apply, and take care of yourself. When we do not eat properly, get the proper amount of rest, or are feeling resentful or lonely, the world can look dismal.
- The serenity prayer – Asking a higher power to help us live in acceptance and for the knowledge of what we can change helps bring inner peace.
- One Day at a Time – It may be overwhelming to think of doing something for the rest of our lives, for the entire next week, or even until tomorrow. Take life one day at a time, one hour at a time, even one moment at a time if need be. Negative thoughts come from worrying about the future or mulling over the past.
The “green card” states:
“There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free of fear and apprehension.
One of these days is YESTERDAY with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. YESTERDAY has passed forever beyond our control.
All the money in the world cannot bring back YESTERDAY. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said. YESTERDAY is gone.
The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. TOMORROW is also beyond our immediate control.
TOMORROW’S sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds—but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in TOMORROW, for it is yet unborn.
This leaves only one day…TODAY. Any man can fight the battle of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of these two awful eternities…YESTERDAY AND TOMORROW that we break down.
It is not the experience of TODAY that drives men mad—it is a remorse or bitterness for something which happened YESTERDAY and the dread of what TOMORROW may bring.
Let us, therefore, live but one day at a time!!”
Setting realistic goals and being mindful of negative self-talk will change your life!