How Positive Self-Talk Aids in Addiction Recovery

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Rear view of a young woman sitting on a mountain top peacefully gazing at low-lying morning clouds and the pastel colours of a tranquil sunrise

It sounds weird, but how you talk to yourself can eventually become your reality. Think about the process that got you into a place of substance abuse. Were your thoughts positive or negative? Maybe you grew up in a home where you were told you were worthless, lazy, that you’d never amount to anything. So you sought out love and affirmation. You wanted to believe that you were more than those things, but instead you found yourself trying to numb the pain through drugs and alcohol. And your self-talk spiraled down further and further.

Just like negative self-talk pushed your mind to a place where you believed the lies about who you are, positive self-talk can help you create a new paradigm. Addiction is multi-faceted. There is the physical addiction and the mental/emotional addiction. There is also the habit aspect of it. You may have gone through the physical detox off of drugs or alcohol, but that’s where the real work starts. It starts with your mind. How you talk to yourself and how you let others talk to you will determine what you think about yourself in the future. Negative self-talk leads to low self-esteem in the same way that positive self-talk improves your self-esteem.

Scientists have started to study the power of words. They want to objectively observe the effects of words and thoughts on organisms.  Why does this matter? When it comes to recovery, the detox is the easy part, overcoming your mindset is the hard part. This includes your self-talk. So here are the ways that positive self-talk aids in addiction recovery.

Improves Your Self-Esteem

If you’ve spent your whole life hearing that you weren’t good enough and you believed it, it’s time to rewrite that story in your mind. Hearing things like “I’m strong” or “I’m beautiful” or “I am courageous” can help your mind start to believe that’s who you are. Often when there are substance issues with teens, there are also self-esteem issues. It’s important to address these issues as the whole person is treated for addiction.

It Helps You Take Ownership of Your Choices

Part of addiction recovery means you can’t be a victim. If your mind or mouth are constantly speaking “I couldn’t help myself” or “I had no choice”, you’ll have a difficult time staying clean. Positive self-talk helps you understand that you always have a choice when it comes to your addiction. It might feel like you can’t help it, but the truth is, you can choose differently. When you start to own your choices, you can make a plan for what to do when the temptations arise.

Find New Friends

Once you realize how destructive words are, you’re more likely to put yourself around people who reinforce your new positive self-talk. You’ll want to be around people who tell you that you can do it, not around people who tell you that you won’t make it a day, week, month, etc. When the positive words you share with yourself are encouraging you to keep moving forward, you’ll find new

Form New Habits

Part of addiction recovery requires you to start forming new habits. Positive self-talk helps you start re-framing your thoughts and your words. If for instance a teen finds him or herself constantly compared to people they see on social media, they may reduce how much time they spend on social media. If you’re struggling with healthy habits in other areas of your life, positive words might help you start taking care of yourself. You might choose to go on walks to strengthen your body or eat more fruits and vegetables because they make you feel better.

There are many bumps on the road to addiction recovery. There is a famous quote from Henry Ford that says, “If you think you can or you think you can’t — you’re right.” This is true in addiction recovery. If you walk into it thinking, “I’m just going to fail” or “I’ll never be free from my addiction”, your thoughts will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you walk into it believing that “this time I will succeed and overcome my addiction”, you’ll be more likely to succeed. Take those positive thoughts and words with you wherever you go.  

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