Controlling Thoughts and Urges in Recovery

Controlling Thoughts and Urges in Recovery


A lot of the control that we think we have is an illusion.

Consider your thoughts. Sit and meditate for a moment with your eyes closed and empty your mind. Can you do it? Most of us will notice that thoughts continue to pop up, seemingly out of nowhere. They will continue to do so even if we try very hard to empty our mind. Likewise, if we let go of the need to control our thoughts, they will still continue to pop up randomly. So do we really have control over our thoughts at all?

The same is true when it comes to thoughts and urges to use drugs or alcohol in recovery. These thoughts will pop up out of nowhere, even though a recovering addict is firm in their resolve not to use drugs. We cannot control these random thoughts; they just appear out of nowhere sometimes.

Sometimes these thoughts will be innocent and harmless and we can pass them off as quickly as they appear. Other times they might be a bit more than just a thought and qualify as a real urge, where we feel more compelled to follow through and actually use drugs or alcohol. Either way, we need a way to deal with these thoughts and urges, especially in early recovery, when they can be truly bothersome to us.

Dealing with random thoughts of using

Let’s think about this for a second. What can we actually control, if not our thoughts? We can control our actions. We can control our habits and routine on a day-to-day basis. And, we can control our attitude, or our mindset. So our solution to random thoughts of using breaks down like this:

1) Acceptance – You should accept the fact that your mind is a random, thought producing machine and is occasionally going to conjure up the idea of using drugs and alcohol. There is no getting around this. So don’t struggle against it or think that there is anything wrong with you for having thoughts of using. If you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse, then of course your brain is going to reference that history and use it to drive new thoughts occasionally.

There is nothing wrong with you for having random thoughts of using. This is normal and expected.

2) Attitude – If you are stuck on that idea that the glass is half empty then getting these random thoughts of using drugs is going to be a lot more detrimental for you. Negativity will not help you deal with these thoughts and will probably only encourage more of them.

The point here is that while you cannot control your thoughts, you can control your attitude. If you are upbeat and positive about your life in recovery then these random thoughts of using won’t have the power to threaten your serenity.

3) Proactive approach – Since we can’t control our thoughts, the real solution lies in controlling our actions. The proactive approach to dealing with thoughts and urges is to take positive action on a daily basis. Doing so lessens the impact of thoughts of using drugs because we are more confident in our recovery efforts, so it becomes much easier to dismiss the thoughts.

Start creating a new life for yourself in recovery and take action towards that vision every day. We can control our actions. Embrace creation and start making progress in your life. This will boost your self esteem and your confidence level and those random thoughts of using will lose their power over you.

Ultimately, you must let slide what you cannot control (your thoughts) and start focusing your efforts on what you can control–your attitude and your actions.


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