Sometimes, although you have gone through all the motions to get addiction treatment and although you have been sober for some time, you might realize that there continues to be challenging thoughts to manage. You might recognize that there are some beliefs, thinking patterns, and cravings that continue to arise.
Once when drug counselor went to his own therapist burdened by the cravings he continues to experience, his therapist said that even though he’s The Big Book, published by Alcoholics Anonymous, many times, he’s got to read it differently this time. The therapist recommended to the drug counselor that next time he reads the book to replace the word “drinking” with the word “thinking”.
The point is that alcohol is no longer the enemy. Now it’s the thoughts, thinking patterns, and beliefs that must change. However, what’s challenging about changing your thinking is that you must be aware of them in the first place. It’s like swimming in the ocean of your own thoughts without a scuba suit. Eventually you’re going to drown in your own mind.
Becoming the observer of your thoughts is like coming up for air once in awhile. It’s an opportunity for you to examine yourself. We all have thoughts that are negative, harming, and destructive. However, observing yourself is an opportunity to pinpoint thoughts and replace them with healthier ones. For instance, if you notice that you have a thought like, “I am such a loser!” you might also be able to see how you feel and physically respond to that thought. You might be able to see how harmful that is to yourself.
By pinpointing that thought you have the opportunity to reflect upon when it seems to arise, in what situations you tend to have that thought, and even the specific trigger that prompts that thought to appear in your mind. Perhaps you have that thought whenever you’re around someone whom you admire. In any case, once you notice it, then you can do something about it!
Frequently, in addiction treatment, a specific type of therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is provided. This form of therapy is a means for examining thoughts and changing negative ones into positive thoughts, just as we have been discussing in this article. One very useful tool used in CBT is the Thought Diary.
The Thought Diary invites you to keep track of the thoughts and feelings you’re having by keeping a daily log. The Diary asks that you write down each day the following:
–What situation you are in when negative thoughts arise
–The type of thought you have (anxious, negative, pessimistic, self-rejecting, etc.)
–The feelings that arise from that thought
–A different, healthier thought to replace the original, negative thought
–And the new associated feelings with the thought of your choice
This list is what you’ll typically find in a thought diary. However, in addition to the above, there is more you can do to change your thoughts and beliefs. For instance, once you find the new and healthier thought, you can take some steps to support your new way of thinking.
–Write down a statement that reflects your healthier way of thinking. It could be an affirmation, which is a statement you can repeat to yourself. For instance, A mistake is not failure. I am successful in many ways.
–Decide what action you’re going to take when the same situation arises. For instance, you might decide to the following: The next time I make a mistake, I won’t dwell on the negatives. Instead I will focus on what I can learn from my mistake. I will remind myself of my past successes.
–Notice whether you feel slightly better about making the change to your thoughts. This can give you confidence so that you can see how changing your thoughts is adding value to your life.
However, perhaps the value of changing your thoughts is obvious. Yet, it’s doing the work of becoming aware of your thoughts and finding healthier ones that’s necessary.
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