When someone has gone through drug detox and they’ve completed substance abuse treatment, they’re often still in need of much healing. In fact, although a person might have entered recovery there are still parts of his or her personality that warrant exploration. Primarily, this type of exploration is the examination of one’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about themselves and life.

For instance, even when a person is no longer drinking or using drugs, harmful patterns of thought might continue to exist that can cause cravings and difficult moods. It’s the reason for the Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) term – the dry drunk. The negative connotation to this phrase comes from the fact that family, friends, and co-workers must still bear the destructive behavior of a recovering alcoholic. Yet another AA term which describes the kind of inner experience that an addict might have had (and could continue to have even when no longer drinking) is stinking thinking. It’s a phrase that refers to the destructive and dysfunctional patterns of thinking that alcoholics tend to experience, regardless of whether they are drinking.

So, the focus of a recovering addict is to uncover their own stinking thinking. They must take some time to find their negative thoughts and change them. Yet, even before this can happen, a recovering addict needs to be able to respond to those heavy thoughts and feelings appropriately.

In other words, the first big battle is to not let those challenging thoughts and feelings lead to drinking or drug use. That’s the first big challenge. One way that recovering addicts are encouraged to do this is to simply ignore those feelings when they arise. Instead of listening to what’s going on in the mind, a recovering addict might go to the gym, attend a meeting, call a friend, see a movie, etc. The point is to do whatever one needs to do in order to stay sober.

However, at some point, there is another great battle. This is to actually engage with those heavy thoughts and feelings in order to challenge them and say to oneself – hey, that’s simply not true. For instance, if you tend to have the thought that you are unloveable or unworthy, then you might have to face up to your own mind and stop believing the thoughts you’re having. You might have to say to yourself, “I refuse to believe the thought I’m having now.” Then, once you’ve uncovered and challenged the false beliefs you have about yourself, you can replace them with thoughts that are more self-affirming.

These two tasks (ignoring thoughts and then challenging them) are not easy. However, the first is easier than the second. With the first, distraction is the main coping tool. Yet, the second task requires a whole new person. If you’ve gotten to the place where you’re challenging thoughts, then you likely believe in yourself again. You’ve probably developed self confidence and inner strength, which were likely not present during your addiction.

Both of these tasks are necessary not only necessary for sobriety; they are required for becoming a whole new you!

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