3 Ways We Self-Sabotage During Recovery

When we are in early recovery, we often find ways to self-destruct.

Posted Oct 14, 2020

PF Romao/UnSplash
There are times when we are our own worst enemy and we self-sabotage our recovery
Source: PF Romao/UnSplash

During our lives, with respect to our recovery, we try to do everything possible to help us maintain our recovery. However, for individuals who are new to learning how to live without having to rely on intoxicating substances in order to survive, there is a dramatic increase in doing things that can be detrimental towards recovery efforts. The sad part of all of this is that individuals in recovery are the ones who cause the most damage. They are the ultimate cause for their fall from recovery back into the depths of addiction.

What causes an individual to falter back into addiction? What triggers an individual who is seemingly in control of their recovery to suddenly lose control of their ability to maintain their recovery? There are a variety of factors and situations in which a person with substance use disorder finds themselves. For an individual who had been in active addiction for numerous years, it could be the factor of not knowing how to live without the drug or alcohol that had been an integral part of their daily life.

For this individual, it could be because they are more comfortable with a life in addiction than a life in recovery. There are times that it could be that the individual has a fear of the unknown and a fear of becoming sober. This may be the case for an individual who may not quite grasp what living in recovery could actually do for them in a positive manner.

The definition of sabotage, as provided by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is:

  1. destruction of property or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers
  2. destructive or obstructive action 
  3. a. an act or process tending to hamper or hurt; b. deliberate subversion

For someone with substance use disorder, this is what we do to ourselves when we give into our addiction. We allow all of the negativity to take over our mindset to the point of allowing the addiction to take back control of our lives.

So, what are some of the ways that we tend to self-sabotage our recovery? In the nearly 30 years in which I have been in recovery and the nearly 15 years in which I have been working with people with substance use disorder, I want to share what I feel are three reasons that individuals have gone down this path. 

Stephen Radford/Unplash
The smallest spark can cause mass destruction and can lead to a relapse.
Source: Stephen Radford/Unplash

1. Getting involved in a relationship both personally and in your recovery.

One of the things I have taught the clients with whom I have worked as an addictions counselor is for the individual to not get into a relationship for at least the first year while they are learning to live in recovery. The reason for this is because getting into a relationship can prove to be extremely harmful for the individual, especially if they associate using substances with sexual gratification. Another issue that I would caution the individual in recovery is thinking that they can develop a relationship in treatment. What I mean is that when an individual goes to a meeting, they need to seek out individuals who are of the same sex so that they do not have the temptation to satisfy their own needs above the process of recovery.

2. Associating with any aspect of your past regarding your addictive behaviors. 

One of the hardest things for any recovery is to let go of any person, place, or thing associated with the addiction. What this means is that you might have to drive several blocks just to simply avoid your addiction. When an individual gets released from prison, they constantly forget about all of the negative things, and then they want to block all of the negativity that surrounds them, and this, in turn, if not carefully planned and executed, can greatly increase the chances of relapse, albeit to a negative solution. Toxic individuals can be family, friends, or associates that you dealt with in the past. One of the analogies that I like to use in my work with clients is that if an individual walks into a barber shop enough, that they are more likely to get a haircut. In other words, if that same individual associates with individuals who are active in their use, then the likelihood of them faltering back into active addiction has been greatly enhanced.

3. They allow the negativity in their lives to cause them to self-destruct.

Working with people with substance use disorder over the years, I have had to deal with individuals who had the tendency to constantly talk to themselves in such a negative manner that it led them down the path of self-sabotage. They would tell themselves they were not good enough or they could not be successful in recovery. The problem with this type of negative self-talk is they are right in their own mindset. Henry Ford, years ago, came up with the philosophy of, “If you think you can or you think that you can’t, then you are right.” What this means is that if you allow yourself to believe the things that you tell yourself, then those things will come to pass. One of the ways that we are able to avoid this is to develop positive self-affirmations each day and read them every day.

One of the key components to remember is that we could be self-sabotaging and not even realize it.  The way to avoid this is to not allow yourself to get caught up in the negativity of the world and to focus on the factors of your recovery. You need to be aware of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that surround you so that you will be more prepared to deal with the issues and be able to avoid situations that can cause you to falter. These are just a few suggestions as there are many other ways to guide you through the minefields of life. Look for those who had been down the road ahead of you on the recovery path as they will be someone who could lead you in the right direction.

Taking Recovery One Day at a Time (10,512 Days and Counting)

© Michael J. Rounds/10,000 Days Sober