Should You Change Your Behavior in Addiction Recovery or Should You Change...

Should You Change Your Behavior in Addiction Recovery or Should You Change Your Thoughts?


Fair question, right? Should you focus on changing your behavior or should you concentrate on changing your thinking patterns? Which is ultimately more important? And which is more important for recovery?

The question really represents two different approaches to therapy. Change your thinking, or change your behavior (and hope that your thinking follows).

My experience

I tried for a long time to change my thinking when I was still using drugs and alcohol. I thought that this was probably the secret to quitting drinking and ultimately changing my life, in fact. But of course this never worked, because I stayed stuck in my pattern of abusing alcohol and other drugs.

At that time in my life, changing my thoughts was impossible. I had to take action. I ended up going to treatment and then going from there directly to a long term treatment center where I lived for almost 2 years.

That was an action-driven change. I could not think my way through that; the changes that happened to my thinking during that period of early recovery were all driven by my actions.

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People might say “If you want to change your life, then change your thinking.” But I found the opposite to be true when it came to getting clean and sober. I couldn’t change my thinking because I was trapped in a cycle of addiction and my thinking was stuck. My thinking was screwed up.

I could not fix my thinking at the level of more thinking. Does that make sense? I could not change my thoughts by merely trying to think new thoughts.

Instead, I had to take action. I’m talking big action. Reckless action. I had to make big changes that altered the entire structure of my life. Huge changes that influenced my everyday living. Such as moving into long term treatment.

That’s why I think the concept of overwhelming force is so important in early recovery. Are you going to go to AA meetings? Then go to 90 meetings in 90 days. Are you going to go to treatment? Then go to long term treatment and immerse yourself in recovery. Are you going to read recovery literature? Then study it like a textbook as if your life depends on it. This is the kind of reckless action that it takes to stay sober in early recovery.

And you know what does not constitute big action? Sitting on the couch and thinking about how to be sober. Sitting around and thinking about being sober will get you drunk, in my opinion.

Just my 2 cents on the whole issue. Personally, I always had to change my actions and let my mind follow me in recovery. Does anyone else have more success with changing their thoughts first? I would love to hear about it in the comments!


My good friend over at The Recovery Princess has written an excellent post about getting sober and making it through your first week of sobriety. Please check it out if you’re interested, some helpful info there….


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