5 Mind Hacks for Staying Sober in Recovery
Your life in recovery just got a little easier – get our latest CBT-based tips on reframing your thoughts.
Our thoughts and beliefs are catalysts for our own actions – and even for the actions of others. This is a source of empowerment, but it can also lead to problems. When you’re in addiction recovery, excessive negative self-talk can lead to a heightened sense of perceived failure, reinforce the inevitably false belief that no one appreciates you and leave you feeling guilty about issues that are out of your control.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. These negative thoughts are almost always a result of cognitive distortion. Cognitive distortion is a flawed way of looking at things that ultimately reinforces unwanted behaviour. These could include black-and-white thinking, overgeneralisation, catastrophising, blaming and more.
At The Cabin Hong Kong, our addiction treatment specialists use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help our clients overcome addiction. One of the core tenets of CBT is that negative thoughts can be reframed in a more positive way. Doing so gives a person the strength to overcome addiction and persist in their recovery.
What is Cognitive Reframing and What Does it Have to do With Your Recovery?
Reframing is the art of identifying and singling out unhelpful thoughts so that you can restructure them to a more positive end. Following are some helpful ‘mind hacks’ you can use to reframe your thoughts.
First, acknowledge these truths:
1. Situations and events have no inherent meaning.
The fact that your employer didn’t give you a pay rise this year isn’t an inherently bad thing. It would certainly be a cause of frustration and could indicate that financial challenges are ahead. But any qualitative meaning that you attach to this event is yours alone. It doesn’t mean anything beyond the fact that you didn’t get a pay rise; it’s only bad if you look at it as such.
2. Every thought has a ‘frame’ holding it in place.
The way you frame thoughts is a window into your underlying beliefs. You might tell yourself, ‘My boss didn’t give me a pay rise because she doesn’t like me.’ You’ve now framed and effectively limited the situation. The reason you’re not getting paid more is because she doesn’t like you, and there’s not much you can do about that. But what if she didn’t give you a pay rise because she expects more from you? The way you frame your thoughts could be holding you back.
3. Every negative frame has a positive intention.
Those negatively framed thoughts spring from a desire to feel or perform better. You want that pay rise. You probably even want your boss to like you. Telling yourself that your boss doesn’t like you (a negative perception) is a subverted way of saying you wish she did (a positive intention) – even if only so that she would recommend you for a pay increase.
Reframing thoughts is all about restructuring your thinking so it presents you with optimistic outcomes rather than self-defeating ones. In the case of this missed pay rise, you could view it as a call to improve your workplace performance or even explore new career opportunities. By the same token, you could even frame this as an opportunity to sharpen your budgeting skills. It’s all in how you look at it.
5 Techniques for Positive Thinking in Sobriety
These reframing techniques can help you stay positive in your sobriety:
1. Keep a journal of your negative thoughts.
Make a practice of identifying your negative thoughts. One easy way to do this is by keeping a journal of them. Anytime a negative thought surfaces, jot it down – either on a notepad that you carry with you or on a mobile device. Simply noting that you’re having a negative thought will lessen its sting. But it also sets you up to put other reframing strategies to work.
2. Look for positive angles on negative thoughts.
Rainy days may be an annoyance to you, especially if you have to drive or walk in the rain. But that same rain is a boon for the flowers and even refreshes the air. These are genuinely positive outcomes, and there’s nothing fake or phoney about taking pleasure from them. As you become accustomed to consistently looking for the positive of negative thoughts, you’ll find that silver linings quickly become major upsides.
3. Conduct ‘thought experiments’.
When a negative thought surfaces, seize it for experimental purposes. Try changing ‘I’ll stop relapsing if I punish myself each time it happens’ to ‘I’ll stop relapsing if I forgive myself and move on.’ What you’re actually doing is testing the validity of a thought to see if it holds up. In the relapse example, you could try both and see which one is more effective in helping you achieve your goals. You’re likely to find that the positive reframe leads to further positive outcomes.
4. Visualise positive outcomes.
First thing in the morning, imagine yourself staying sober for the entire day. Rather than considering it a chore, practise framing it as a pleasure. Get yourself in the mood to celebrate another day of sobriety. And you don’t have to limit visualisation to sobriety – try visualising positive outcomes for all of your pending endeavours. Do the same again before you go to bed, even if your day didn’t go as planned. Visualising the day in a positive light gives you the chance to embrace the best of your experiences.
5. Challenge your assumptions.
If you’ve caught yourself in a negative frame of mind, it may be time to start challenging your assumptions. Odds are good that there’s a negative belief at work, and it’s probably based on one or more untrue assumptions. For example, if you feel like your partner never listens to you, remind yourself of a recent time they did (even if it was a trivial matter). You’ll see that your initial assumption was incorrect, which gives you a chance to reframe it and move in a positive direction.
The Cabin Hong Kong Can Help You Stay Strong in Sobriety
Our addiction team at The Cabin Hong Kong are experts in CBT and multiple other therapies that can help you build your recovery toolbox, so have everything you need to stay sober. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.