I have learned many little tricks to assessing where my head is, I mean, whether I’m thinking like I did in the Old Days or thinking with my “right mind”. I was taught early on -maybe you’ve heard this, too – that my mind is like a bad neighborhood at night: I don’t want to go there alone. I knew intuitively (?) from the get-go that I could not trust my own thinking.
When I arrived at treatment, I had gone through everyone I’d known and come up with the following:
• I couldn’t trust my parents
• I couldn’t trust women
• I couldn’t trust men
• I couldn’t trust myself.
So it was easy for me to grasp the concept of “I no longer have a drinking problem. Now I have a thinking problem.” I definitely needed to re-learn how to think.
While I was in treatment, IOP and residential, I began to learn about the different styles of “Unhealthy thinking” (ie Stinkin Thinkin). The list is fairly long, so I’m just going to touch on a few, here, followed by an example or explanation of my understanding of what it means.
1. Personalisation – also known as hypersensitivity – This involves blaming yourself for any and everything that goes wrong, even when logic tells you that you’re only partially responsible, or even not responsible at all. This kind of thinking has you feeling guilty WAY too often, and apologising when you have nothing to apologise for. One common example of this is when you blame yourself for someone else’s poor choices.
I am responsible for everything inside of my skin. I can’t control anything outside my skin, with the possible exception of my kids, and, really I’m pretty powerless over them most of the time.
2. Catastrophising – this is when a person makes mountains out of molehills. Another way of saying it is “pole-vaulting over mouse turds.” Teenagers are great for this sort of thing, and since we tend to stop growing emotionally when we begin our addiction, that can cover we in addiction recovery as well. This reminds me of a boyfriend who always told me I was too dramatic. I had no idea what he was talking about, but now I do. The best way I have come up with to stop this kind of thinking is to take my emotions out of it, and look at the situation with only my mind/logic/intellect. (I do this at times with sarcasm, I think. Probably not the best approach, but it helps ME.) After that, I usually will go to the EXTREME possible outcome, which is just ridiculous. For example, I work with a woman who does this. Last week she had a hangnail that she’d picked, and although it wasn’t bleeding, it was (a hangnail, remember, so pretty tiny) raw-looking. She showed it to me and did her hyperventilating act, and asked me in her trembling voice if it was going to be alright. I told her we’d probably have to take the finger off. Sarcasm might not have been the best response, but I think you get the point. I put a bandaid on it and she is still alive as far as I know, and still has all of her digits.
3. Black & White thinking – Also known as All-or-Nothing thinking. This style of thinking is where you see everything as good or bad, wrong or right, with no in-between. The word “moderation” just doesn’t exist in an alkie/druggie’s vocabulary. When me Dad got sober he would talk about how he used to say “Moderation is for wimps!” The example that comes to mind is the way an alcoholic drinks. If you’re going to offer them one, you’d better be ready to share the rest with them. The sad and funny thing about that is, many of us relapse because we convince ourselves that we can have “just one.” How crazy is that? I never wanted one of ANYTHING, before, and now all of a sudden I was going to calmly moderate? One of anything just irritated me. The thing that helps me to avoid this kind of faulty thinking is that I force myself to imagine the thing in a gray area. My instinctual thought was “he’ll either be dead or he’ll recover” (in the case of my Dad’s surgery to cut out the cancer), well, guess what. I forgot to consider that maybe he wouldn’t die right away and he wouldn’t be healed. I hadn’t ever imagined for a second that what would happen was actually in the middle of those two things. So now I force myself to remember that gray is a perfectly possible outcome, most of the time. (Just not where addiction is concerned. Period.)
4. Magnifying and Minimisation – This often is a go-to for a person not actually ready to quit. You’ll hear things like “I had X, Y, & Z, but I didn’t have my favorite drug!” or “I relapsed part of Monday, part of Tuesday, and part of Wednesday.” or “He gave it to me.”From the tone of their voice, I am pretty sure this seemed like a perfectly good comprehension of the events. The reality of the situations was A), you relapsed, and it doesn’t matter on what, because any of those things could kill you or send you to prison and B), You only relapsed for “part of” those days because you didn’t have money to buy more? Or because when you were coming down you don’t consider that to be the same as being high? and C), He didn’t hold you down and force you to do it.
As far as addiction goes, regardless of what the focus of the addiction may be- with the possible exception of food addiction, there is no middle ground. You’re either clean or you’re not. You’re either living in an addict’s brain or you’re living in a recovering person’s brain.
OK, that’s probably enough to chew on for now. If this has been helpful to you in any way, or if you think it could help someone else struggling with an addict or an addiction, please share.