Controlling Your Thinking | Mindfulness in Recovery
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Controlling Your Thinking
Mindfulness in Recovery

Having negative thoughts is natural, but when our mind believes them, they can easily cause some trouble.

Our thoughts and feelings directly affect our behaviors and our behaviors directly affect our lives. Staying positive is a choice.

Negative thoughts and feelings come in many forms, called cognitive distortions. Addicts are plagued with these naysaying thoughts which often lead them to repeat destructive behaviors.

The good news is recognition and mindfulness can combat pessimism, defeatism and cynicism. In fact, you can outthink your negative thoughts with these methods. These kinds of tools are essential to both addicts and their families who are affected by the disease and are a part of treatment at our addiction treatment centers in Florida and California.

Cycle of controlling thoughts

Common Types of Negative Thoughts
For Families in Addiction

Description Example Solution
Unreasonable Expectations Characterized by assigning unrealistic expectations on yourself, other people, or the situation you are in I should be able to help my loved one want to get sober. Be mindful of setting goals for yourself and others too high.
Personalizing Taking responsibility for events that you have no control over It is my fault my son/daughter is an alcoholic. Gain some perspective by humbling yourself. “I am not that powerful.”
Magnifying Making negative events seem much worse than they really are My child has become a heroin addict, he is as good as dead. Talk to others to gain their insight, and see if your line of thinking is irrational.
Black and White Thinking Things are either one way or the other, and no gray area exists. I am the only healthy relationship he has, all of his friends are bad apples. Give yourself some credit for the good things that you have done.
Blaming Assigning responsibility to others instead of realizing your contribution to the situation He is an addict because his father was never around. Realize that a blaming someone else doesn’t solve anything and delays problems from being solved.
Mind Reading Projecting your thoughts onto other people Everyone thinks I caused my loved one’s addiction. Understand that you cannot be certain of what other people are thinking, and it is probably not as bad as you think.
Overgeneralization Because something negative happens, you automatically think that it will always happen that way She relapsed after 6 months of sobriety, she will never make it to a year. Be careful of making assumptions that jump the gun.

Do you have any of these thoughts?

Failure is an essential part of growth. Every failed attempt is a valuable experience if you learn from it. When you make a mistake, own it and move forward. Every day is an opportunity to do something different, and past mistakes do not predict the future unless you let them.

Disregard people who talk negatively towards you. They usually have something going on in their life that is making them project their unkind words on you. Be strong enough to walk away from the situation.

The best time for action is now. There is no opportunity like the present to make things happen for yourself. Our own negative thoughts tell us that happiness is elusive and reserved for other people, but this is not the case. A good way to combat this type of negative feeling is to make a solid plan of action and stick to it. Instead of hoping that you will be happy in the future, make changes in the present so the future gets brighter. Not letting other people control your happiness can be tricky, but is extremely beneficial.

Self-doubt leads many people to failure, so be careful not to fall into this trap. When you feel your thoughts going this way, take a break and literally tell yourself to stop. Taking the time to do this will not only give you time to process your emotions but also put your mind on a more realistic and rational train of thought. Reassure yourself that you are the only one telling yourself that you can’t do something, and then prove yourself wrong. Attitude is everything, and focusing on a negative outcome will always make your results negative.

It is human nature to want to know exactly what is going to happen, and if everything will turn out alright. The problem is, sometimes our pessimism can tell us that everything is going to go wrong. No one can predict the future, so these thoughts are obviously just speculation. It is important to ask yourself the following four questions instead of assuming uncertain outcomes are always negative.

  • Are you aware and mindful that you cannot predict all possible outcomes?
  • Are you being flexible with your thoughts instead of being stuck in one scenario?
  • Are you standing up to your negative speculations with confidence?
  • Are you remembering that, so far, everything you were once scared of turned out okay?

If you respond “no” to any of these questions, take a step back and breathe. Consciously tell yourself to stop projecting your negative thoughts into the future. The future is always uncertain, so focus on the things that could go right and be grateful for what you already have.

People struggling with substance use disorder hurt their loved ones in many ways. Lying, stealing, and manipulating are all extremely common behaviors. It is important to remember that forgiveness is more for you than it is for the other person. Remember the following tips:

  • Be patient with yourself and your loved one; change does not happen overnight.
  • Recognize that addiction is a disease and most individuals have lost the power of control.
  • It is important to consciously let go of resentments. Being angry at someone will not benefit you.
  • Do not wait for them to say sorry. Instead, forgive the individual when you are comfortable.

Holding onto resentments only adds to stress and further strains the relationship between you and your family member of friend. Learn to forgive and forget; someone has surely forgiven you at some point. Every time someone hurts you can be a learning experience with the right attitude.

Be understanding and forgiving to those around you instead of judging and dismissing them. People that struggle with substance abuse are especially subject to emotional damage. Being patient and understanding is important. This period of their life does not define who they are as a person, nor will it last forever. While you can’t love someone out of their substance abuse issue, you can be supportive and patient while they find their way.

The good news is happiness is contagious. Doing positive things for others will find its way back to you because it removes selfishness from the equation. The better news is that you don’t have to necessarily be happy to start that chain of events. Start small by opening a door for someone or smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. Little steps can make a big difference, and random acts of kindness that spread joy to other people will come back to you.

There are several stages of trust that family and friends usually go through before they can put confidence in their loved one again. Depending on what stage of their addiction or recovery they are in, the person struggling might feel they are entitled to your trust. Being conscious of manipulative behaviors, give the individual opportunities to prove themselves and earn your trust.

Standing up for yourself is important when a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or addiction. You may second guess yourself from time to time about how you are coping with their problem, and this is okay. Forming your own opinions and standing up for yourself is healthy behavior. It is your life, and you must live it for yourself.

It is easy to slip into hopelessness when someone you love is affected by the disease of addiction. When you catch yourself having these feelings, stop and think about how many people have overcome addiction and led successful lives. This can help you live in the present and be grateful for the good moments in life. Remember that pain is always temporary, and better times are ahead.

Many people make the mistake of setting unrealistic goals for themselves and others. As a loved one, your goal should be to provide support without enabling, but many parents, siblings and spouses are locked into this kind of negative behavior. The SMART method can help to refocus and set positive and healthy intentions.

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Always remind yourself to take one step at a time. Don’t get focused on the result, but instead, take things day by day. Eventually, you will reach your goals and more importantly, be at peace with yourself.

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