Negative thoughts have the power to knock you completely off-track in recovery, maybe putting you at higher risk of relapse. If you fall into a pattern of negative thinking then it can lead to a situation that many in AA refer to as ‘dry drunk syndrome’. This means that while you are still physically sober, you act as if you were still caught up in addiction. Below are a few simple techniques to help you take control of negative thoughts so these are not able to sabotage your recovery.
You cannot stop thoughts manifesting in your brain. If you do not believe this is true, try not to think of a pink elephant for the next minute – the fact that you are trying not to think about it only ensures that you will think about it. Thoughts just appear in your head but this does not mean you have to give them all the same level of attention. By learning to be more selective, you can start to dismiss negative thoughts in favour of more positive ones.
Mindfulness is a simple practice that allows you to become more objective about the content of your thoughts. By regularly practicing mindfulness, you get to clearly see that thoughts are just like clouds passing through your mind and you can choose to just let them go on their way. This ability to be more objective about your thoughts means that you will find it easier to filter out the negative things.
Your mind is designed to warn you of potential dangers in your environment but, in the modern world, this ability has become a bit oversensitive. Millions of things could go wrong, but if you are always focused on potential negative outcomes then it can lead to passivity, depression, and hopelessness; it also means that you can be overcome with worry. When thinking about the future, it is better to expect the positive scenario to occur rather than the negative one. All of the worst things that happen to people tend to be things they were not expecting, so worrying is not that useful. By always expecting the positive to happen, it means you have more energy for dealing with life and you will tend to attract good things to your door.
The principle of charity is all about ascribing the best possible motive to the words of other people. If you have a habit of thinking the worst of others then it would mean that you are at least wrong some of the time; it will also mean you are regularly in conflict with others. Giving people the benefit of the doubt has no real downside and even if the other person is being deliberately nasty, you will not be adding fuel to the fire by responding in a bad way.
The fact that you are now trying to do the right thing in your life means that, generally speaking, the right things will start happening to you. There are sure to be bad times, but it is important to have faith in this process. Even if a bad patch seems to be going on and on, it will not last forever and all you have to do is hang in there until things start to improve. Expect good things to be there for you in the future because it is true.