Reducing Self-Criticism in Recovery
Reducing Self-Criticism in Recovery
-Article by Helen Barker
Many alcoholics and addicts use their substance abuse in a bid to achieve both happiness and confidence. However, in reality, addiction will never provide a route to happiness and whilst it may make you feel more confident and remove your feelings of self-doubt, this effect is only temporary. This means that as you seek to replicate these feelings, you will abuse your substance of choice more and more until you are in the grips of an addiction that you simply can’t control.
As a result, when they do not have the support of their substance as a crutch, recovering addicts can often feel vulnerable and exposed. Your faux-confidence is likely to be replaced with crippling self-criticism and doubt, in conjunction with a crisis of confidence. You may find that you frequently ask yourself impossible questions such as:
- Why am I so weak?
- What’s wrong with me?
- Why do I keep making so many mistakes?
Silencing these voices and reducing self-criticism is essential if you want your recovery to be a success. Here are some core ideas to explore in order to reduce your urge to self-criticize during the recovery process:
Transform Your Inner Critic
If you cannot silence your inner critic, then why not instead choose to work with them, and turn their negative approach into a positive one? While your inner dialogue may continue to suggest that you will fail, and that you will not achieve your goals, you can turn this dialogue into something constructive by asking what healthy action you can take to prove your critic wrong. So for example, if the niggling voice in your head suggests that ‘You’re never going to overcome your addiction,’ you can find strength in your desire to prove this messaging wrong.
Often our inner monologue is trying to protect us. Often it is trying to help us find the comfort we know is present in the familiar (such as the high and the relief you are likely to feel if you return to the substance abuse). But by better understanding the messages your inner critic is feeding to you, you can transform these and use them to your advantage. Prove that inner critic wrong and turn your inner monologue into your most supportive cheerleader instead!
Recognize That You’re Human
We each want to believe that we are entirely unique: that our thoughts and feelings are special and that no one else can share experiences quite like ours. However in reality, we all share similar experiences, and there is great comfort to be found in this. Most human beings have experienced feelings of disappointment, shame, rejection, fear, mistakes and anger at some point during their lives. Although the cause of these negative emotions is likely to differ, no one has a smooth path through life without them.
Where is the comfort to be found in this? Because even though you might feel completely isolated in your struggle, you are not alone. If you take a step back and examine your situation you will realize that there is a universality to your specific struggle. This knowledge should help you to feel connected to the world, and the people around you, and should help you to feel part of something that is bigger than just yourself. Overcome your own battle, then use your experience to help others overcome theirs.
Be Kind to Yourself
If you have already made the decision to begin the recovery process and seek support to overcome your addiction, then you have already made the most difficult step on your path to renewed health and continued wellbeing. It’s time to acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes but that no one deserves to be punished for those mistakes, and simply to be kind to yourself.
Ask yourself how you would treat a loved one who was struggling with addiction: would you blame them and batter their self-esteem, or offer them kindness, comfort, and support along their journey to recovery? We are often kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves, but by acknowledging this and making the decision to treat yourself how you would treat someone you love in the same circumstances, you will find it much easier to simply take a step back and be kinder to yourself.
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See the page on Breaking Addictions here.