Self Defeating Behaviors in Addiction Recovery

Self Defeating Behaviors in Addiction Recovery


What are some of the common self defeating behaviors in alcoholism and addiction recovery?

Certainly one of the most common would be that of holding on to resentments.  Or rather, the real problem behavior is not so much that a person has resentments, because we all do.  The real issue is that they are not working diligently to resolve them.  This is much more common and is really the behavior that needs to be targeted: Proactively working through the 12 steps of AA or NA, working with a therapist or counselor, and so on.

Another common self defeating behavior in recovery is in our relationships.  There are certain people from our past life that really have nothing good to offer us now that we are in recovery, and the only thing that we can hope to do in terms of that particular relationship would be to set an example of sobriety for the other person.

In other words, we all have people from our past in which our entire relationship with that person was based on and around our addiction.  So now that we are sober we have absolutely no connection to that person other than the fact that we used to drink or get high with them.  So for us to entertain the thought of associating with this person in any way is really unhealthy.  There is no good reason for us to be associating with these old “drinking buddies” or drug partners.

Another self defeating behavior in addiction recovery is when we put anything in front of our recovery program.  In other words, maybe we go to inpatient treatment and then we follow up with AA or NA meetings every day afterward, and eventually we start to get back to something like a normal life.  And eventually we start to put other priorities in front of our daily 12 step meetings, and before you know it, maybe you will have gone a full week without really doing anything for your recovery.

This is definitely self defeating, because if you do not have your sobriety intact then your entire life will unravel and fall apart completely.  So you must keep your recovery first and make it your number one priority.

Part of the problem with these self defeating behaviors is that they involve denial.  So for the most part, people who are engaged in self defeating behavior do not know that they are doing them.  They don’t realize that they are slowly screwing themselves up and inching closer and closer to a relapse as a result.

So how do you prevent a problem that denial is a part of?  How do you warn yourself again the state of denial?  How do you keep yourself in check so that you don’t drink your own Kool Aid, so to speak?

There are several ways.  One, the awareness is number one, and you can get some help with this.  Before you can fix a problem, especially one involving denial, you have to become aware of the problem.  Your peers can help you in this.  Hopefully you have been attending 12 step meetings, have a sponsor, and maybe even see a therapist regularly as part of your recovery program.  If so, then you have lots of people to bounce this off of.

An example of what you might ask of your sponsor or therapist could be: “What do you see as my biggest problem lately, or the thing that I most need to work on in my life?”  Or you might say “What do you see as the biggest opportunity for me in my recovery right now?  What should I focus on next?”

If you ask this of your sponsor and therapist once, say, every 90 days, and you actually follow the advice that you are given, then it will drastically improve the quality of your life and of your recovery.  This is because in asking for this type of feedback you will uncover all sorts of self defeating behaviors that otherwise would have gone unchecked.  But since you took the time to identify them and address them you are able to move past them and drastically improve your sobriety.

We like to believe that we have all the answers ourselves, or that we know what is best for ourselves.  This is almost never the case, however, no matter how smart an individual may be.  You cannot be objective when it  comes to your own weaknesses and shortcomings in addiction recovery.  Another way to put it is, you can identify some of your issues in recovery but definitely not all of them.  In other words, every person in recovery, to some extent, has blinders on, and they need the help and advice of other people in order to put them on the proper path.

For every major decision that you are going to make during your sobriety journey, you should at least bounce the idea off of a few trusted people before you dive head first into something.  So maybe you are thinking of moving to another location and taking a new job–that would be exactly the sort of decision that should be handled very carefully for someone in early recovery.  If you do not have a strong support system in place that is at least somewhat mobile then it could be a huge mistake to relocate just for the sake of employment.  On the other hand, your situation could be such that you would really benefit from moving to a new environment.  Every major decision should be made on a case by case basis with the help and advice of people that you trust.

Secrets and recovery do not mix well at all.  If you are thinking of doing something and you are keeping it a secret then that is a red flag that you may be getting yourself into some kind of trouble.  This is why I suggest that you share your ideas and your intentions with people that you trust.

You may be afraid or nervous to share your intentions with anyone.  This is something that you have to work through and do it anyway.  If you cannot share your idea with a counselor or a therapist then you need to find someone that you trust, perhaps a new therapist or a new sponsor.  Or maybe this is your red flag that whatever it is you are planning is a really bad idea.  If you cannot bring yourself to share it openly with people then it is possibly a self defeating behavior that you should really be cautioned against.

So when you are in the first few years of your recovery journey it would be wise to share your intentions, plans, and desires with people that you trust, preferably people who have experience in addiction recovery.  They can help guide you to the things you should be focusing on, at a time when you feel like there are a million and one different things you should be doing for yourself.  The truth is that you cannot take every positive suggestion that you hear, and you need prioritize.  Therefore you need someone you trust, or several people that you trust, to help break things down and give you specific instructions as to how to live your life.  It is through the process of taking suggestions and advice that you can best overcome self defeating behaviors in addiction recovery.