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How to Stop Beating Yourself Up in Recovery

When you get sober, you often start to notice all the nasty things you say to yourself. When you were in active addiction, this self-criticisms was often drowned out by the drugs or alcohol, but now you’re aware of these brutal thoughts that not only make you feel awful but jeopardize your recovery too. When you start making yourself feel bad, there are some ways to stop the assault.

Notice when you’re doing it.

You might not realize you’re saying horrible things to yourself. You might just feel bad and not know why. If some minor thing makes you feel terrible, ask yourself why. There’s probably some negative self-talk beneath it. See if you can identify specifically what it is. Usually, it’s the same kind of thing you heard as a child from a critical parent, guardian, teacher, or relative. You probably learned to preemptively criticize yourself as a means of protection.

Don’t isolate yourself.

When you get into a funk, whether it’s spontaneous, or triggered by some external stress, the normal tendency is to isolate yourself. This only makes it worse. You end up sitting alone and ruminating, which only makes you feel worse. Instead, reach out to friends or anyone who will listen. Talk to a therapist if you can. Go to a meeting, where there will always be people willing to listen. Let them know you’re battling these self-critical thoughts.

Challenge your thoughts.

When you get down to it, your thoughts are just opinions. It’s not as if they know something you don’t. Usually, they aren’t even your thoughts but criticisms you internalized from other people who are less credible than the aliens guy from the History Channel. Yet somehow we accept their judgments about us as fact. If you challenge these thoughts even a little, it soon becomes obvious they are not true. For example, maybe you forgot to do something and think, “Ugh, I’m totally unreliable and I can’t be trusted with anything.” Take a moment and ask yourself if that’s really true. If you try, you can probably remember plenty of times you’ve kept appointments, helped people out, and generally behaved reliably.

Change your perspective.

We have a strange double standard when it comes to how we treat ourselves vs. how we treat people we care about. We would never tell a close friend she was a worthless loser who might as well relapse because she’ll never be any good anyway, but somehow it’s ok to tell ourselves that. We’re much more forgiving and supportive of our friends than we are of ourselves. When you notice you’re beating yourself up, ask if you would treat a friend that way. If not, take a deep breath and try being a friend to yourself. You know better than anyone what you’re up against, and you know you’re doing the best you can.

Negative self-talk is often deeply rooted, but with practice, it can be muted or changed into something better. 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 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.