Everyone who has been through any kind of addiction recovery (heck, anyone who has changed anything in their life) knows that change is hard. Really hard. And possible. And sometimes scary.
Maybe the hardest part about any kind of change process is retraining your thinking so that you don’t go back to your “old ways” when you’re not thinking or not paying attention. How do you stop that?
Here are 5 strategies to keep you on the road towards your goal, whether that goal is addiction recovery, personal improvement, or anything else. These strategies are related and they build on each other.
#1: Back Away From the Cliff
When you’ve relapsed, get conscious. The very first step is to recognize that you’re teetering on the edge of a big, nasty cliff. So back up. Get conscious about what you’re doing (or have done), why you did it (usually emotionally-driven) and what you’re feeling about it. Validate yourself; you aren’t bad because you repeated an old behavior, and you do need to change right away.
Go to your support person and tell them what you did. If you don’t have a support person, you need one. Find a trustworthy, wise person, ASAP. Be prepared to accept the consequences that follow. Remember, the consequences of taking responsibility for your actions are ALWAYS less painful (and usually much shorter) than the consequences of not taking responsibility.
#2: Get out of Drama & Co-Dependency
Co-Dependency is related to drama. It means either being in a helpless habit of relying on others to meet my core physical, spiritual and emotional needs, or being in the habit of giving, giving, giving to people who behave helplessly. Statements such as, “I’m nothing without you,” “You complete me,” and “You’re my better half” are filled with co-dependency, or the desire for someone else to be responsible for “making me” feel happy, fulfilled and loved. Co-dependency means that the people in a relationship try to emotionally manipulate and/or control one another’s emotions in order to prevent upset for themselves. Co-dependency is acted out through drama.
Are you in drama? Most likely, because every person on the PLANET uses drama. At its core, drama is a refusal to be responsible for my own part in any situation. If I live in drama/co-dependency, I set myself up to struggle with addictions over and over again. Drama has three positions or characters: the Rescuer, the Persecutor, and the Victim. Here are some questions to ask yourself, to tell if you’re in drama:
- Do I want to blame someone?
- Do I feel like the victim?
- Does it seem that someone is persecuting me?
- Am I taking things personally?
- Do I feel justified in lashing out, screaming, throwing anger at someone, or lying, deceiving, manipulating, etc., because of “someone else” or because “it’s their fault”?
- Do I feel the need to rescue someone (another adult) from a situation or consequence they need to handle on their own?
- Do I step in and “protect” others from the consequences of their choices or the choices of others?
- Do I behave in controlling ways?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, drama is active in your life. Consider how you might need to change your thinking or behavior towards your loved ones or yourself.
#3: Find your Fears
Co-dependency, drama and addictions don’t just “happen” because a person is bad or broken or unable to change. The core driver is fear. Fear that I won’t measure up. Fear that I’ll do something wrong. Fear that others will find out how bad I tell myself I am. Fear that I really am unlovable, unworthy and unable to be happy, that life will pass me by, that I really am dumb, fat, ugly, stupid, don’t matter, can’t accomplish things, shouldn’t try, etc. These fears are aggressive and they can wield incredible power over an individual.
So, when you’ve recognized the drama/co-dependency you are reacting to, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of here?” Maybe it’s that the outcome will be “bad” or uncomfortable. Maybe it’s that you’ll have to do a lot of work, or that you’ll lose something or someone you love, or that you’ll be “found out”, “discovered”, and so forth.
#4: Ferret Out Faulty Core Beliefs
We’re going even deeper here! Fear is the core of addiction, but where do your destructive fears come from? They’re actually based on shame, which creates faulty core beliefs inside of us. When we believe any message about self that is not true (such as, “I’m going to fail because I’m a failure,” or “I’m not worthy of _____”, or “I’m dumb/fat/unlovable/broken,” these lies inside of us create great fear, because we become afraid that they might be true. The more clout we give to them, and the more choices we make that reinforce these faulty core beliefs, the more strongly we believe them, and the more fear we experience.
So when you ask “Why am I afraid?” ask also, “What is the lie here? What do I believe (about myself) which is not the Truth?” The greatest thing you can do to change your thinking is change your paradigms about yourself. Everything else will change as a result.
#5: Get into the Truth
The Truth is the greatest weapon you have to change behaviors. Because the Truth is that you are amazing, capable of change, and if you will change your beliefs and your attitudes, you will change; it will be an outcome. “If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.” Well, I’d like to propose a corollary: “If we believe what we’ve always believed, we’ll do what we’ve always done.” Actions are outcomes of desires and thoughts, which are themselves outcomes of beliefs.
These 5 steps will move you away from addiction and destructive behaviors. The Truth will protect you. As you practice these steps and become more experienced with them, you’ll be able to stay on the solid ground of Truth rather than on the shaky, shifting ground of faulty core beliefs, fear, drama, co-dependency and addiction or destructive behaviors. As you practice, your sensitivity to your “gut” will grow and you’ll be able to stay in the Truth more often and more powerfully. Then, watch out, world, because a powerful Soul is on the move!