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Rational Recovery Thinking 

Chapter 3 Rational Thinking to Handle

Anti-Recovery Thinking

Section 3: SEA's Tools for Recovery Lifestyle 
Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous -

The SEA's Program of Recovery
By James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Handling Anti–Recovery Thinking

What irrational thinking is anti‑recovery?

Irrational beliefs that are anti‑recovery include:

  • Habitual ways of thinking about life that keep you locked in your compulsive behavior and/or unhealthy ways of reacting.
  • Attitudes, beliefs, practices, moods, and thoughts founded not so much in reality as it is but rather in reality as you think it should or ought to be.
  • Excuses, rationalizations, lies, negative self‑talk, that you give to show that you are unable to achieve a recovery lifestyle.
  • Negative reactions, doubts, mistrust, and suspicions used by you to avoid change.
  • The belief that others should make the changes necessary to eliminate the unwanted condition in your life.
  • The hope that there is some magic pill, potion, or prescription to make the problem behavior go away.
  • The need for instant gratification.
  • Disbelief that it will take lifelong vigilance and external support to keep lifestyle and recovery changes in place.
  • The belief that it should be easier to gain health and mastery over compulsive behaviors than it really is.
  • The reluctance to accept a program of recovery or change in lifestyle that puts all of the burden on the person desiring the change in behavior.
  • The belief that your current lifestyle, which includes compulsive or unhealthy behavior such as obesity, alcohol abuse, chemical abuse, compulsive gambling, shopping, sex, etc. need not be changed; you are OK just the way you are.
  • Prejudice or bias against professionals and the advice they offer; professionals are just out for themselves and do not have the welfare of their patients or clients at heart.

Negative consequences of this anti‑recovery irrational thinking

Allowing anti‑recovery thinking to go unchecked can result in:

  • Sabotaging efforts to make an honest change.
  • Losing your motivation to continue in your behavioral change.
  • Wishing you had not chosen to initiate your program of change.
  • Disillusionment, a readiness to jump at reasons to legitimize your dropping out of a program of change and recovery.
  • Boredom with the slow pace of change and recovery, a desire to get out of the change process.
  • Discouragement in the small increments of change resulting from such great exertions of energy.
  • Backsliding on the original desire and commitment to change; believing that you were OK, even nicer, before you began to make the changes.
  • Your over‑reacting to attention and compliments for the changes you have made in your life. This is scary since you don't know how to handle all this new attention.
  • Your saying on the surface, in front of others, that you are committed to a change, when in reality you are holding back, unconvinced of the need for change or for the amount of effort required to make the change.
  • Recidivism, that is, your achieving the goal of a behavior change (lose weight, stop smoking, stop drinking) but not achieving a lifestyle change, eventually reverting to your old habits and problem behavior patterns.

How can you tell if you are affected by anti‑recovery irrational thinking?

Use the following symptoms check‑list to determine if you are being affected by anti‑recovery irrational thinking. Write down the symptoms you are currently experiencing.

Symptoms of Anti-Recovery Thinking

  1. Disillusionment with the program of recovery
  2. Fear that complete change will never come
  3. Anger at the slowness of change
  4. Discouragement at the size of change (amount of weight loss, rate of weight loss, number of cigarettes, etc.)
  5. Disbelief that to sustain the changed behavior requires a change in lifestyle
  6. Use of excessive rationalization as to why it is impossible for you to implement the full recovery program at this point in your life
  7. Claims that you have no time to work on the necessary changes
  8. Feeling as if you are facing a life of deprivation rather than feeling good about how full your life will be once you have implemented the recovery lifestyle system
  9. Feeling that this takes too much effort, time, and money for the results
  10. Lacking in motivation to continue in your program of change
  11. Wanting to abandon your time‑management schedule because it feels too demanding and intrusive
  12. Wishing you had never started this program of change
  13. Faultfinding with the professional staff and the program with which you are currently involved
  14. Looking for something wrong with the program or staff to justify your quitting
  15. Feeling bored or overwhelmed with the efforts needed to make the change in your life
  16. Not liking the new you; feeling that the old you wasn't so bad, was easier to live with, was happier, was funnier, etc.
  17. Fearful of others' newly found interest in you when before they ignored, shunned, or barely tolerated you
  18. Not really convinced of a need for change in your life
  19. Just wanting to achieve an end goal of change (lose weight, stop smoking, stop drinking, etc.), not wanting to change your lifestyle for full recovery
  20. Resentment that lifestyle changes require so much restructuring of your time, social support, and personal habits

If you have written down three or more of these symptoms, consider yourself greatly affected by anti‑recovery irrational thinking.

How can you counter this anti‑recovery irrational thinking?

In order to keep on track in achieving a recovery lifestyle, you can counter your anti‑recovery irrational thinking by using the following rational statements.

  • “Rome wasn't built in a day.'' It takes time for all great things to be accomplished.
  • There are always going to be down days, but keep on trying.
  • It is sound advice to “take one day at a time,'' don't fret or worry about achieving the total result overnight.
  • Success builds on success. Every change no matter how small is a brick in building a new, healthy self‑esteem.
  • It will take much effort to alter old habits and ensure that they don't crop back up.
  • You deserve the attention and effort you are giving yourself.  If you don't do this for yourself, who will do it for you? Only you have control over your life and motivation to change. Change your lifestyle only for yourself and not for the sake of someone else.
  • It takes time to make the changes necessary and you are deserving of this time so give it to yourself.
  • The initial period of deprivation to achieve an end goal (i.e., loss of weight, stop smoking, stop drinking, etc.) is filled with pain and sacrifice but once the goal is attained a life of moderation, health and full self‑esteem is yours if you follow the balanced lifestyle recovery model.
  • No matter how small the current results are, the changes occurring are positive steps in your achieving full wellness. You are a good person deserving of your hard work and effort on your behalf to achieve the positive end results no matter how long they take to achieve.
  • It will always take work, effort and energy to sustain a recovery lifestyle and healthy self‑esteem and you are worth the effort so hang in there!
  • A time management system isn't worth anything unless it is a blueprint by which you can gain order, routine and habits of change in your life.
  • Although at times the road to recovery and full healthy self‑esteem appears to be a long and narrow one, remember you have already come a long way. Remember to positively reinforce yourself for the changes you have already made in your life. Let your past success motivate you to continue on with your change efforts.
  • The professionals you are working with are humans and as such have failings and foibles too, just like you. They are not Gods or Super Heroes who never make mistakes. Be assertive and stand up for your rights if you feel your rights are being infringed upon by the staff working with you.
  • There will always be some excuse in a program or with the professional staff you can use to justify quitting a program. Remember that you are in the program only for yourself so if you quit the program you are hurting only yourself. The program and staff will survive your leaving.
  • Boredom is nothing more than a sign of the lessening of your motivation to change and to sustain these changes in your life. Use boredom as a barometer of the need to give yourself a booster shot of positive reinforcement for coming as far as you have come in your program of change.
  • The “New You'' is the real you. The old you was a series of masks you once hid behind. Give your “New You'' some time to get an even footing so as to become more stabilized and secure before you discard it in favor of the old, more comfortable, familiar you.
  • It is normal for people to be more attracted to thin, non‑alcoholic, non‑smoker, non‑gambler, non‑compulsive individuals. You are going to find people giving you more attention. Turn this attention into a positive reinforcement of the changes you have made in your life.
  • Doubting the need for change in your life is a sign that you are human and it is natural to second guess your decision to alter your lifestyle. This is a time when you need your social support to re‑affirm you in your decision to change by pointing out all of the good things you have accomplished so far in the changes you have already made.
  • There is no easy answer to sustaining radical changes in your life (i.e., loss of weight, stop smoking, stop drinking, stopped depression, etc.) unless you implement a change in your lifestyle to change the old habitual behaviors which contributed to your old problems (i.e., overweight, alcoholism, compulsive behaviors, etc.).
  • This lifestyle change requires time to acquire a new, healthy, habitual way of living. In fact, it is a form of compulsion substitution that is a substitution of health‑oriented compulsions for unproductive, problematic compulsions.
  • If a lifestyle change is to become permanent, it requires an overhauling of one's way of interacting, acting and reacting. This requires time management, social support and replacement of old personal habits for new, more healthy habits.

NOTE:  For further information on rational thinking, look at the chapter, “Handling Irrational Beliefs'' in Tools for Personal Growth by James J. Messina, Ph.D.