It is common for people who become caught up in addiction to be prone to negativity. This tendency to focus on all the bad stuff in life can follow them into recovery, preventing them from finding happiness. A positive attitude not only makes life more enjoyable but it also energises the mind, offering motivation to keep on doing the right things. Being positive does not come naturally to many in recovery, but it is a skill that can be learned.
The opposite of a positive attitude in recovery is stinking thinking. This refers to a pattern of thinking whereby the affected individual is negative a lot of the time. This stinking thinking can be made up of lots of different ideas and feelings, including resentment, pessimism, ill will towards strangers, black and white thinking, enjoying seeing others fail, cynicism, grandiosity, arrogance, and bitterness about things that happened in the past.
Stinking thinking is dangerous as it can suck all of the joy out of recovery. Negative individuals can struggle to make friends because they are just so hard to be around. It is common for those caught up in stinking thinking to try to pull others down with them and they can be particularly dangerous around newcomers in recovery. Those individuals caught up in this level of negativity are at high risk of relapse or developing dry drunk syndrome (this is where they are physically sober but still act as if they are drinking).
One of the biggest dangers with having a negative attitude is that it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is where the act of predicting an event actually causes it to happen. If people believe they will relapse or struggle in recovery, the likelihood is that this is what will happen to them. This is not because they have any type of paranormal power to make predictions. It is just that when individuals expect to fail at something, they do not put in sufficient effort to prevent this failure.
It is impossible for people to feel positive all the time, but it is possible to hold a generally positive attitude towards sobriety. The benefits of relating to the world in this way include:
- people who are positive have more zest for life so they get more done
- it is believed to be better for mental and physical health
- it means that people are easier to be around
- those who are positive usually experience far less stress and consequently are less likely to develop stress-related illness
- it increases the likelihood of being successful in life
- it helps people in recovery develop emotional sobriety.
It is possible to train the mind to be more positive. Some of the most effective ways of doing this include:
- spending time around positive people
- learning some type of meditation technique
- attending cognitive-behavioural therapy sessions to deal with negative thinking
- following a recovery programme such as the 12-steps
- spending more time in nature (for example, going for walks)
- maintaining a daily gratitude list – this is where individuals write down all the good things in their life
- spending time helping other people – this is one of the most effective ways of developing serenity.