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How to Deal with Self-pity in Recovery

Self-pity is common with addiction and the two are mutually reinforcing. Often, the circumstances leading to addiction are beyond our control. Maybe you suffered some trauma or abuse. Maybe you had an accident and started taking opioid painkillers for the pain. Maybe you suffer from depression or schizophrenia. None of these is fair and it’s normal to feel like a victim of circumstance. Unfortunately, this perfectly understandable attitude can also stand in the way of recovery.

Self-pity usually means you dwell on the past. You think about your trauma, your mistakes, your hopelessness, and the unfairness of it all. The more you focus on all of that, the more powerless you feel. All the things that happened to you become a convenient excuse for your addiction. You can say things like, “Of course I’m an alcoholic; my father was an alcoholic and he beat me all the time.” It’s true that’s a common pattern, but it does little to address your current problem, which is that alcohol addiction is ruining your life.

Finding a solution means going beyond self-pity, which is easier said than done. The first thing to do is be honest with yourself and acknowledge when you are feeling self-pity. Label it for what it is. Even if you don’t quite feel like you can do anything about it yet, at least say, “I’m feeling sorry for myself.” The next step is to examine your assumptions. Maybe you feel worthless because of abuse you suffered. This kind of thinking is extreme and narrow. Would you call a friend worthless if you discovered she had been abused? Of course not, but you insist on judging yourself that way. A good therapist can help you see the ways your thinking makes you feel trapped and helpless.

One immediate thing you can do is think of some small action to make you feel better about yourself and do it. Take a shower, or make the bed, or wash the dishes. Taking action, even small actions, reminds you that you do have some control over your environment. Big changes start with little changes and if you can make some little changes then you’re on your way.

Help someone else. Get out of your own head for a bit. Again, this could be a small thing, but even helping someone in a small way can help you feel better. It could be doing a favor for a friend or relative, giving your dog a treat, or volunteering with AA. Any service you do will distract you from your ruminations, make you feel better about yourself, and bring you closer to others.

Self-pity won’t go away all at once. It will keep coming back for a while and you’ll have to work on keeping it from taking over, but you will get better at it. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to learn more.