Overcoming procrastination in addiction recovery
Overcoming procrastination in addiction recovery is incredibly important. It’s important in all walks of life, of course. But with addiction recovery’s ongoing journey, procrastination can be both more likely and more damaging.
Staying away from behaviour patterns associated with addiction takes constant work. It takes action and attentiveness. Not managing to stay alert can easily lead to backsliding.
Then there is what economists call the opportunity cost of procrastination. Basically, any time or effort we spend doing one thing stops us from doing another. We can’t be in two places at once. Therefore, if you’re spending your time procrastinating, you’re not spending it doing something more constructive, like having fun, properly resting and relaxing, or focussing on your recovery process.
Procrastination is also more common in people who struggle with depression and anxiety. These two concerns are often associated with addiction and recovery.
So, how do you overcome procrastination as you go through your addiction recovery? Happily, there are quite a few techniques you can put in place. Overcoming procrastination can be simple.
What do we mean when we talk about overcoming procrastination?
When we procrastinate, we replace high priority actions with low priority ones. These low priority ones could be low effort and/or more enjoyable tasks than the ones we know we should be doing. They could also simply be different – a way of distracting ourselves.
However, it isn’t all about time wasting. Importantly, procrastination is often justifiable. At least it can be to ourselves in the moment.
You could talk yourself into believing that the low priority task is in fact a high priority one. You might minimise the high priority task in your own mind to convince yourself that other things need to take precedence. Or, you could genuinely believe that you’re more effective when you leave tasks to the last minute. You might try sprinting to the finish rather than taking your time on doing a proper job of things.
You might also get into the habit of avoidance. This could be cancelling meetings at the last minute, taking time off work or finding and creating dramas. Anything, that basically keeps you from addressing your high priority task.
Often, you might become suddenly forgetful around the task you’re avoiding. You might double book, taking part in a more desirable activity so that you’re too busy to do the work needed.
You might blame others for your inability to get work done. Your boss might be getting you to do an unfair job or your spouse might be demanding too much (see demand resistance below). Therefore, you rebel against it (which might be fair enough). You place the blame on others.
Alternatively, instead of getting angry, you might try using humour to deflect the situation. You make a joke of your inability to complete the high priority task, demeaning it and making it seem less important. This trivialisation will make it seem like a small deal when you fail to complete the task.
In overcoming procrastination its is helpful to identify certain habits you create to justify or enable procrastination.
Plenty of people are demand resistant. This a key underlying factor for procrastination. Demand resistance is an unconscious, chronic, negative response to any demands placed on you. These can be internal or external demands, real or perceived – it doesn’t matter. If you’re demand resistant, any demand can bring out a negative response.
This negative response will often be rebellious. Procrastination is a key method of this kind of rebellion. Overcoming procrastination will mean overcoming demand resistance.
One theory behind demand resistance suggests that it can be traced to childhood experiences. If you’re parents placed unreasonably high demands on you, you will understandably react badly to any demands. You might learn to rebel, keeping these habits into adulthood.
Somebody who is demand resistant will naturally react poorly to any kind of authority, real or perceived.
Overcoming procrastination is important in addiction recovery
Addiction recovery cannot be a passive activity. It takes action. It takes you committing fully and working constantly and consistently on your own wellbeing. You need to maintain good habits and keep your eye on the ball.
Procrastination obviously goes against this. There are few tasks as high priority as overcoming addiction. You cannot afford to neglect it in favour of lower priority tasks. Overcoming procrastination needs to be a priority.
Unfortunately, addiction rarely has any kind of middle ground. It’s a sad truth that if you’re not going forwards – actively so – you will probably be going backwards. You regress, opening yourself up to bad habits and relapse. You need to be mindful of this as you travel through recovery.
The stakes are high during recovery. Therefore, there are quite a few dangers that procrastination can pose.
As above, you need to remain active and focussed during recovery. There will be actions you need to take. These are coping mechanisms, broadly speaking. They keep you away from addictive patterns, behaviours and substances. Any lapse in this active focus can open you up to relapse.
You may also be in danger of self-sabotage. Procrastination can be a useful tool for those looking to undermine their recovery. This could be a way to justify relapse. If you ever find yourself feeling that you don’t deserve recovery – that you don’t deserve a bright future – you might also self-sabotage.
Bare in mind that you may have already spent many years undervaluing life and not getting out of it what you want. Procrastination will only defer this positive, yes-saying attitude. It will waste more precious moments that you might otherwise be enjoying.
If you feel like you’re on the verge of relapse, don’t put things off. Overcoming procrastination is an immediate concern. Seek help right away. This can be from medical professionals, loved ones, sponsors, or whatever other support mechanisms you have in place.
Procrastination in addiction recovery
There are a few reasons that you might find yourself tempted to procrastinate during addiction recovery. Overcoming procrastination will mean overcoming them.
Facing your demons
Let’s face it, recovery is incredibly hard. It can be very, very unpleasant. For it to work, you need to face your demons. You must learn to live without your addictive behaviour or substance. This is rough for anyone. Anyone would want to avoid doing any of it. Nobody wants to face their demons, especially when they are at their most vulnerable. Procrastination is understandable and natural.
Addiction recovery is also change. You will find yourself having to change and adapt, to break the mould. This is also tough for anyone. Most of us are programmed to like comfort. We like the known, no matter how damaging it may be. Again, delaying this change makes sense. It just isn’t healthy or helpful.
Boredom is also a factor. Addiction recovery is stressful. It is therefore kind of exciting in its own way. However, you may find yourself missing the highs that your addiction provided. We typically fidget when we get bored. We look to distract ourselves. This is only ever a step away from procrastination.
You might also get complacent if your recovery is going well, or at least if you feel it is going well. Hubris can be a killer. Succeeding yesterday doesn’t mean you’ll do so today or tomorrow, however. Vigilance needs to be your watchword . There is always a chance you’ll backslide, so don’t get too relaxed.
If you suffer with addictive behaviour, you might also be in the habit of waiting for situations to become dire before doing anything. You wait for the escalation. This will only ever add drama. Be careful of this. Always try to nip bad situations in the bud. Even better, make sure they don’t come up. This is where the active behaviour we have spoken of comes into play.
Depression, anxiety, and low self-confidence
As I’ve mentioned, addiction generally comes hand-in-hand with depression and anxiety. You might get listless and despondent. This will stop you from easily being able to take positive action. Procrastination can follow. A lack of self-esteem or confidence might also make you fear failure. You can’t fail at a task you don’t attempt, which is where procrastination comes into it.
Steps for overcoming procrastination in recovery
You can do plenty of things to minimise your risk of procrastination in recovery. Make sure you don’t hit the pitfalls above by planning ahead and taking these steps.
Time management is key. Set yourself tasks and keep to schedules. Ask those around you to help keep you on track. Try to make better use of your time. Fill your days with as many positive things as your energy levels will allow.
To-do lists will help. They give you set tasks to perform and the satisfaction of ticking them off when they are done. Break your larger goals into manageable chunks. Perhaps try set, half-hour periods of work.
Also, don’t focus so much on finishing tasks. If you don’t finish something, you can always come back to it later on. Just focus on beginning a task. Do a little. Everything will begin to feel a lot less overwhelming.
If you find the idea of demand resistance familiar, it may be something worth looking into. You may have to overcome it in your addiction recovery. In the short term, try simply rephrasing tasks. Rather than I have to, think in terms of I want to.
In the long run, some form of therapy may be useful. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help you to quickly overcome your procrastination. Person focussed therapy can help you to find the reasons for your procrastination, though it may take a little longer.
Speak to your medical provider. Look into Procrastinators Anonymous. It is a fantastic resource for anybody who is struggling to stay focussed. The Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) also provides some valuable information on overcoming procrastination.
Author - James
- Procrastination - https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Procrastination