Irrational thinking and false beliefs are two trademarks of addiction. All of the lies we tell ourselves in order to keep our addiction going take root, concealing the reality of ourselves and our situation from us. Part of any successful recovery has to be learning to recognize our faulty beliefs, and replace them with true principles we can govern our lives by.
Recognizing Irrational Beliefs
The brain is an incredible tool, capable of gathering information surrounding a situation, and then adding its own input to draw a conclusion. The problem with this is that if our brain is functioning irrationally, we can end up drawing conclusions that simply aren’t true. Addicts end up telling themselves lots of things that aren’t true, some of the most common of which being:
- Substance abuse helps me cope with problems.
- I’m not strong enough to stop.
- I don’t have a substance abuse problem.
- I can’t relax, have fun, or control my emotions without this substance.
The first step to establishing a new belief system is to learn to recognize false beliefs. This is done in part by taking your own input out of the equation, and simply viewing the reality of a situation, based only on the facts.
Confronting Errant Beliefs
Once you’ve recognized a false belief, it’s time to dispel it by confronting it. You can do this by questioning yourself and your situation. For instance, if your false belief is that substance abuse helps you to cope with problems, ask yourself if substance abuse has solved problems in your life, or created them. You could also ask yourself if your substance abuse makes you stronger or weaker. Taking an objective look at your situation will reveal errant thinking, and help you recognize patterns of behavior that are based on false beliefs.
The key to changing false beliefs is by replacing errant thinking with truth and knowledge. Once you’ve isolated a false belief, like, “I’m not strong enough to stop,” you can compose a truthful statement that is based on reality to replace it. A replacement for this example might be, “I am strong enough to stop, but I’m going to need help.” Discovering a truthful alternative to false beliefs lays the groundwork for a change in behavior. Once your truthful beliefs are in place, you can begin making strides towards getting better based on the reality you have to deal with, and the possibilities that are actually ahead of you.
Lee Williams, LCSW, SUDC is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Substance Use Disorder Counselor. He graduated from the University of Utah with a Master’s Degree in Social Work and a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with Certification in Criminology and Corrections. He is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. His professional experience in the field of addiction has been centered on mental health and forensic social work. Lee has actively worked in a 12-step approach to the treatment of substance use disorder for over a decade. In addition to his love for working in the field of addiction, Lee’s greatest joys are in his experiences as a husband and father.