5 Signs You’re Self-Sabotaging in Addiction Recovery
Self-sabotage occurs when you hinder your own success. Maybe you’re on a diet and you find yourself consistently indulging in high-calorie foods. Perhaps you are in a relationship with someone you love, but you keep pushing them away. You might even have a drug or alcohol problem and despite wanting to stay clean relapse over and over. Simply put, self-sabotage is when your actions do not align with your long term goals.
In this article, Recoverlution looks at 5 ways that you may self-sabotage . We explore why people self-sabotage, and how to stop if you are in a pattern of behavior that goes against what you want in life.
Examples of self-sabotage
1. You surround yourself with negativity
Negative self-talk, hanging around people who bring you down and putting yourself in difficult situations are all examples of how you might sabotage your own success. If you want to change your life, it starts with changing your mindset and the company you keep. Fill your life with positive things, and eventually, the negative will start to fall away.
In addiction recovery, this means distancing yourself from old “using buddies”. Instead, associate with people who are free of drugs and alcohol and are on a similar path to you.
2. You’re a perfectionist
There’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence. However, when your standards are so high that they’re unattainable, it can lead to problems. If you’re constantly seeking perfection, you will likely never be satisfied with what you have accomplished. This can lead to discouragement, and eventually, you may give up altogether. Try to focus on the progress you’ve made, rather than how perfect it is or isn't.
3. You procrastinate
Procrastination is often a form of self-sabotage. If you’re putting off doing something that you know needs to be done, it’s likely because you’re afraid of failure. But by not taking action, you’re guaranteeing that nothing will change. So instead of putting things off, face your fears and take small steps towards your goals.
4. You make excuses
When you make excuses, you’re really just looking for a way out. It’s a way of justifying your inaction and it’s often used as a form of self-protection. But if you want to achieve something, you need to be honest with yourself. Take responsibility for your actions and own up to your mistakes. Only then can you learn from them and move on.
5. You give up too easily
It’s normal to feel like giving up when things get tough. However, if you do it too often, it will become a habit. And once it becomes a habit, it’s hard to break. So instead of giving up at the first sign of trouble, try to push through and see what you’re capable of.
This particularly applies to relapsing. Once you make a habit of relapsing, it may be years before you are able to maintain long periods of sobriety again. Treasure your clean time and make maintaining it a priority!
What cause self-sabotage?
Patterns from childhood
If your parents did not show you love, were abusive or were sometimes absent, you may have picked up the idea that you did not deserve a happy life. As an adult, this causes you to self-destruct when you feel like things are going well. Additionally, if you were rejected or neglected by a parent, you may grow up to sabotage your relationships with people so that you can avoid experiencing more rejection.
You might have had a parent who did not have the confidence to succeed. This parent, due to their own fear, constantly warned you that the world was dangerous and that you should always be very careful. This leads to avoidant behaviour as you grow up.
If as a child you experienced trauma where someone abused your trust, you may have begun to look at the world as being an unsafe place. From this time, you came to believe that you did not deserve good things. Therefore, you self-sabotage so you do not get these things (even if at another level you want them).
A child who is violated by any person, particularly a person of trust, may look at the world as unsafe and view themselves as undeserving of good things in life, leading to self-sabotage.
Current or previous relationship dynamics
If you were in a romantic relationship with someone who repeatedly told you you were worthless, you may have started to believe it. This can give you low self-esteem, so you believe that you do not deserve to have the things that you want in life.be in a loving relationship.
A need to control
If you have encountered frequent failure in your life (perhaps while you were still taking substances), you may feel like you are a failure, and that you are doomed to face disaster in whatever you do. You may feel like it is not a matter of if you will fail, but when.
Because you are so sure that you are going to fail you may self sabotage so that you are able to control how you fail. This is often seen when people are about to reach a particular milestone in recovery (30 days, 90 days, 1 year, 5 years etc) and then relapse. Make sure that your recovery is particularly strong around these times
Fear of failure
If you are a perfectionist, you may be horrified at the thought of failing and the shame that comes with it. This can lead to you procrastinating or not even starting something.
For example, you may have a dream job that you have wanted for a long time. The day of the interview comes up, and you do not go. This may be because you fear not getting the job, or you might even fear getting the job and not being good at it.
If you are in recovery, fear of failure can be so powerful that it can lead you to relapse. This can happen no matter where you are in your recovery journey. This is why it is so important to address
Adaptive behaviours becoming maladaptive
Self-sabotaging behaviours may have started as being adaptive. You might have begun implementing these patterns into your life to survive challenges. If you continue using them after this challenge or once a difficult time in your life has passed, they become maladaptive.
You might have used anger in your using days as you were in threatening environments and anger would help keep dangerous people at a distance. This behaviour becomes maladaptive when you continue using it in recovery, as anger may alienate others and reduce your ability to communicate effectively.
How to stop self-sabotage
Get to know yourself to reduce self-sabotage
Learning how you think about how you respond to external stimuli can help you to stop self-sabotaging so much. Are you a perfectionist who comfort eats when something goes wrong? Do you have a tendency to drink or use drugs when you have taken too much on? Are you still getting angry at a person’s behaviour when a subtle approach would be more appropriate?
Understanding your triggers plays a massive role in helping with overcoming self-sabotage. Simply witnessing your mind as you find yourself triggered can help. What was it that caused these feelings?
You can also get to know your triggers better by working a recovery programme. Developing a relationship with a sponsor, doing “the steps” and talking over situations when you have self-sabotaged will help you not do it so much in the future.
You don't necessarily need to speak with a sponsor about it. Talking with a friend in recovery or someone who understands self-sabotage may also be useful. They might even share about times when they have self-sabotaged. This can help you to reduce how much you do it in the future, and, if you feel shame about self-sabotaging, hearing someone else’s story may lessen this.
Assess the outcome of your self-sabotage
Before you self sabotage, try and slow down and think about what will happen if you do. In recovery, play the tape forward. When you tell your boss what you think about them, what will be the long term ramifications? If you cheat on your partner, will this cause you problems in the future? If you use or drink, what will your life look like in a few days? Asking yourself this question can help break self-sabotaging patterns.
Work with a therapist to reduce self-sabotage
Therapists can help you dig into why you are self-sabotaging. A therapist might assist you in looking at the way your parents spoke to you or behaved with you, or past unhealthy relationships where you were not valued.
Talking with a therapist about your secret thoughts and insecurities reduces their power over you, and means that their influence over your self-sabotaging behaviour will be decreased.
While recovery support groups are great for staying clean and sober, people in recovery are not usually trained to help you address trauma. This is why therapists can be so beneficial.
Apply rules for decision making
Do you find yourself overthinking things, becoming overwhelmed and then self-sabotaging by procrastinating? Making decisions can be tiring, especially if you're an over-thinker, as many people in recovery are.
Applying heuristics or rules - can reduce overthinking and decrease procrastination, helping you to have less stress and less self-sabotage in your life.
Heuristics work by setting rules that you follow in certain situations. For example, you could set yourself a rule where you take a 15 minute break for each 2 hours you work, regardless of what you are doing.
You might set a rule that tells you that you need to order an item if you are going to run out of it in less than a week. Using heuristics in this way can help stop you constantly fighting fires, where something needs to be done immediately.
Learn to appreciate incremental gains and let go of perfectionism
People with addiction problems are often perfectionists who have inflexible standards and want to be the best versions of themselves right now. This can make it difficult to appreciate the small gains that happen when you are working on yourself, leading to the feeling you are not making progress and even leading to self sabotage.
You might have a goal to save 1000 pounds, but become dismayed when you realise you only have 300 pounds in the bank. Rather than chiding yourself up about your progress, try to appreciate that you are a third of the way to you goal!
You may want to lose 5kg. As long as your goal is a healthy weight, this is fine. But don’t beat yourself up along the way, as this can lead to feelings that may cause self-sabotage (including comfort eating). Even losing small amounts is a great achievement. Practice loving your body the way it is now.
Perhaps you are working on an anger issue. You are doing well with remaining calm for a while, and then out of the blue lose your cool and damage a relationship. Sure, you can learn from the situation so that there may be less chance of you doing it in the future, but rather than chastising yourself for your hot head, appreciate how far you have come.
Remember, while you might glamorise the end result, it is important to appreciate the journey. The feeling of satisfaction at attaining your goal is likely to be fleeting, so try and stay in gratitude all along the way. This will lessen the chance of you self-sabotaging in the future.
Use anti-procrastination strategies to prevent self-sabotage
Not wanting to do something out of fear, by being overwhelmed or simply because it is not an enjoyable task leads to procrastination, a form of self-sabotage (remember, self-sabotage is simply a behaviour that goes against your long-term goals). If you are someone who does this often, there are strategies that you can implement:
Use project to-do lists. Do you occasionally panic that the task you are going to do is too challenging? Using to-do lists is a great way of breaking up something that may have been overwhelming into manageable pieces.
Pretend you’re giving the task to someone else. If you are often hard on yourself, try imagining that you are giving an assignment to a friend. This may help you to simplify what you are doing, decrease the demands that you are putting on yourself, and lessen procrastination.
You can stop self sabotage
Stopping self-sabotage is one of the keys that will lead to the “good life”. First, try to figure out why you are self-sabotaging. Next, use the tools in this guide to stop. Having someone you can talk with who understands self-sabotage may help you to free yourself of your destructive patterns more quickly.