What do they mean when they talk about “self sabotaging behaviors” in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction?
Basically what they are talking about is when a person is behaving in such a way that it ultimately leads to their downfall, or a relapse, even though the person may not be intending for bad things to happen. Their behavior leads them into this against their wishes.
So what are these behaviors?
In almost all cases these behaviors stem from emotions that are left unchecked. For example, a very popular way that addicts sort of lead themselves back into a relapse is when they let their anger get out of control, and they cannot see enough to reason through the anger and calm down. Instead, they continue to escalate and basically “let their anger get the better of them.” They get so bent out of shape over something small and petty that it leads them to do something that they regret.
Many, many people who have relapsed can look back and see that the real reason that they relapsed is because they wanted to use drugs, they wanted to self medicate, and the reason that they wanted to medicate themselves was due to their emotional state at the time. This is almost always the case. Many people try to deny the idea that their emotions are what cause them to relapse, but deep down if they analyze the situation they will admit that they were angry, scared, or upset, and this is what pushed them over the edge. Our emotions are powerful in terms of maintaining our sobriety.
Another popular behavior that sabotages recovery for many addicts and alcoholics is self pity. This is when a person is very wrapped up in their own head and is constantly feeling sorry for themselves. They are playing a victim role in their mind and they continue to think of how unfairly they have been treated by others. This track plays over and over again in their minds like a broken record, and it never helps. It only hurts. It can only sabotage their efforts at recovery, it cannot possibly benefit them in any sort of healthy way.
Anyone who is trapped in a cycle of self pity has every excuse that they need to relapse and eventually hurt their recovery. Self pity is justification for relapse. When someone engages in self pity, they do not have the ability to take positive action. They are just stuck in a mode where they are saying “the world has done me wrong, others have done me wrong, and I have suffered because of it.” They are not in the right mindset to take positive action and make the necessary changes that they need to make in their life.
But it does not have to be self pity or resentment that gets someone into trouble in their recovery. It can be something simple such as pushing the boundaries in a rehab center so that the rules are violated and the addict is kicked out of the program. The addict may do this without even realizing that they are sabotaging their own efforts, and thus leading them to go back out and relapse because of it. Then they might blame others, blame the treatment center, blame the “stupid rules,” even though they knew in the back of their minds that their behavior would eventually lead to a negative outcome. Without being quite sure how it might happen, the person has sabotaged their recovery and ended up back using their drug of choice again.
So how can you overcome this sort of behavior in your own recovery? You might try:
* Increasing your awareness of your problem behaviors (such as self pity or resentment) and shutting them down immediately when you notice them. Put them on a “zero tolerance policy” with yourself and do not allow them to take up your time. If you cannot just flip these behaviors off then you need to ask for help from a sponsor or others in recovery who have found success.
* Take positive action daily. Start with physical action, and also include “helping others in recovery.” If you focus on both of those things, you would be hard pressed to screw up your own recovery in the process.
* Keep yourself accountable to others. Sponsorship or friends in recovery, doesn’t matter. If they tell you that you are screwing up, listen! ”We are each other’s eyes and ears,” etc.