The Power of Positive Thinking in Sobriety

The Power of Positive Thinking in Sobriety


You have probably heard people talk about “intention manifestation” and being able to control the universe through the power of their intentions, through the power of their thoughts.

I am not necessarily talking about that here. What I am suggesting though is that everyone can definitely benefit from thinking positive in their recovery.

First of all, when you are stuck in active addiction, you start to live a life that is heading downhill. And at some point you probably realize that drowning your sorrows every day with booze or some other drug is not so bad because at least it is predictable, and this makes you feel safe and secure. So if there is bad news in your life then there is actually a silver lining to that because it gives you an excuse to drink, to self medicate.

Then at some point the consequences of your addiction kick in, and bad things start to happen as a result of your disease. This becomes more fuel for the fire, and gives you another excuse to drink or take drugs. Somehow we forget the fact that this is circular reasoning, and that the “cure” for our bad outcome is to simply drink more and create more bad outcomes. Somehow we gloss over that fact and we simply take on the bad news and pour ourselves another drink. So the negativity starts to feed itself because we learn how to justify and rationalize nearly anything, and no matter how bad our life gets, we can always find refuge in that next drink or drug (or so we tell ourselves).

The long term trend in our active addiction is that our life just keeps getting worse and worse. This is because we are not finding solutions to our problems, and instead we simply drink or use drugs. So over time we encounter more and more problems, just as everyone in the world is going to endure more and more problems, but we addicts and alcoholics are not fixing them. We just go drink or self medicate.

When a struggling addict or alcoholic gets clean and sober and they enter recovery, they start seeking new solutions.

New solutions.

This is an important concept in recovery, because it is really what changes the game for you. Without new solutions, you are forced to eventually revert to your old solution, which is to drink or take drugs. The only thing that can really lift someone out of addiction is if they are willing to entertain new solutions, to seek new solutions, to implement new solutions. Otherwise they are just going to go back to what worked for them in the past, which was to self medicate.

This is where positive thinking comes in, because if you are constantly shooting down new ideas and new solutions, you cannot get anywhere. This is why they suggest that you must be open minded and willing in early recovery. Without willingness you are never going to be able to try the new suggestions that will eventually lead you to a better life in sobriety.

When I was in very early recovery I was in treatment and I started to take suggestions from people. At one point it was suggested to me that I try seated meditation, and I did that for a while.

Ultimately, at that time, it did not really work out for me and it did not seem to be helping me very much. So I moved on and I started trying other things.

The reason I bring this up is because I think it is very important to the process of early recovery. Which is to say that you must be willing to experiment if you want to recover.

I had to take suggestions and try various things in order to find the right path in recovery. When I tried seated meditation it did not really speak to me; it wasn’t doing much for me, so I moved on.

But the important point is that I continued to take suggestions and I continued to listen to people in AA and try their advice out. I started keeping a written journal and I started writing in the steps. I started reading recovery literature and I started going to a sponsorship meeting. I went back to work and I also went back to school at the advice of my sponsor. I continued to take advice and suggestions so that I could explore new solutions in my recovery, and I was keeping what was working for me and discarding the rest.

But one of the keys is that you cannot just discard advice because you don’t like it, or because you are lazy. You must actually take the advice, act on it, and put it into your life before you pass judgment on it. This is how you actually make progress and grow in recovery–by testing out the advice that you are given and giving it a fair chance. If you just dismiss it out of hand then you are missing the point and you are going to miss out on a lot of potential growth.

One of the things that you hear over and over again in traditional recovery circles is the concept of gratitude. One of the reasons for this is because the polar opposite of gratitude seems to be selfishness or entitlement, and those things can easily lead a person to relapse.

If you are truly grateful in the moment then it is almost impossible to relapse. No one who is genuinely grateful is going to pick up a drink or a drug and ruin their life all over again. That doesn’t happen. If someone relapses then they are being the polar opposite of grateful in that moment.

But in order to practice gratitude I think it helps to put some action behind it. In other words, if you have to force yourself to generate gratitude from nowhere then it is not every genuine, and I question the helpfulness of that exercise. Wouldn’t it be better to live a life that creates natural gratitude, rather than having to force it?

That said, you can start to live in such a way that you will feel naturally grateful more of the time by doing certain things. One of those things is to take really good care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and socially. It is hard to be grateful if your life is falling apart. So you have to take really good care of yourself and of your health in order to have a good foundation for gratitude.

Second, you need to find a way to give back to people, hopefully a way to help others in recovery. The more specific you can be in terms of helping people to live a better life or to recover, then the more this will give you positive feelings.

I would urge you to set up routines for yourself that create this type of positive thinking on a regular basis. For example, I exercise regularly and have a pretty set routine to do so. I also work in a job that allows me to help others in recovery, including newcomers who may still be struggling pretty heavily.

Those life choices have led to some routines for me that help me to stay grateful without really having to force it. I simply go through my day and because of the routines that I have established I find myself to be grateful for where I am in life. Instead of forcing yourself to be grateful, go create the life that will naturally lead you to gratitude. Good luck!