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The Importance of Positive Self-talk in Early Recovery From Addiction

by GIA Miami

September 01, 2021

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Self-talk is a term for the conversations and thinking patterns that exist in our heads. Our current emotional state usually drives self-talk, but it is also associated with our past and our perceptions of the world, including our family members and the way we relate to them. Throughout our lives, negative experiences and complicated relationships can severely affect our inner dialogue.

Addiction is a complex disorder with many contributing factors. Low mental health is often associated with addiction, and part of the recovery process involves addressing this. During addiction treatment, the way we communicate with ourselves is vital to recovery. If negative thoughts and self-critique are not challenged, the things which first led us to addiction can still be present, and can make us liable to relapse.

Self-Talk During Addiction

When somebody is suffering from addiction, the prominent voice in their head tends to be negative and critical. This encourages feelings of guilt and worthlessness, which are risk factors associated with relapse; somebody suffering from addiction may turn to their substance of choice to block out the negative self-talk they are experiencing.

What Is the Importance of Positive Self-talk?

The power of positive inner conversations can have a dramatic effect on lasting recovery. People in recovery can use this process as a tool to stay on the path to sobriety. Common results of positive affirmations include:

  • Lowered levels of anxiety
  • Seeking out alternative coping mechanisms
  • Lowered levels of depression
  • Increased levels of confidence and hopefulness
  • Increased abilities to face hardship
  • Greater sense of self and self-worth

How Can We Practice Positive Self-talk?

Quality treatment programs will focus on strategies for positive self-talk throughout the recovery process. Managing our inner critic is something we need to practice and requires awareness. There are a few simple steps that can help us change the way we speak to ourselves internally:

Notice the Different Voices In Our Heads

Often by the time we get to recovery, negative self-talk has become normal. Start by paying attention to that voice and what it feels like to identify the good or bad judgments we make about ourselves. Try not to respond with further negative thoughts; instead, just notice what comes up.

Identify Who Is Speaking To Us

When we criticize our actions, does it sound like the voice of a teacher, parent, or family member? If we can understand the root of this negative self-talk, we can start to tackle it.

When Is It Loudest?

Are there certain environments where the voice is most present? Does it occupy our brains when we are in a specific situation or setting? If we are with certain friends or family members, does the voice increase? Knowing the answer to these gives you the ability to actively choose to quieten the negative self-talk and increase the positive affirmations.

Acknowledge the Timeline of Recovery

Recovery takes a huge amount of emotional strength, and withdrawal symptoms add an extra challenge. Feelings of emptiness and hopelessness are normal with withdrawal, and understanding how they will impact your mental state will help.

Every minute you spend in sobriety is a chance for your brain to repair itself, and although it seems tough, it will get better. Your body will soon learn to regulate itself without substances, and your moods should stay on a more even keel.

Challenge the Inner Critic

Years of self-doubt can leave you at the mercy of this voice. When you hear the inner critic saying, “you will never manage to do this!” respond by making a list or having a conversation with somebody about all of the things you are doing to make positive steps towards change. We can replace these damaging words with more supportive ones such as, “my mistakes don’t define me; they are an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Remember Your Strengths

Make a list of your physical and mental abilities and strengths. Visualize this list whenever negative thoughts arise and ask friends or family members to add to the list too. We don’t always see the good in ourselves, so getting external validation from people we trust can be very powerful.

We Do Recover

With the right approach to sobriety, it’s absolutely possible to leave the negative voice that doubts your potential to recover in the past.

No matter what point of the recovery journey you are at, reach out for support and always remember that you’re not alone. Everyone will experience negative self-talk at some point, but there are many techniques, people, and support groups to help you realize the immense value you hold and how your recovery is worth fighting for.