Negative thoughts influence your feelings and actions and can drive your addiction. Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs for short) are those deeply-held, and often repeated, pessimistic thoughts that lead to intense emotions and wayward actions. Therefore, it is necessary to reflect on which thoughts are distorted and which are accurate. Negative thoughts that accompany drug and alcohol use are often irrational and exaggerated and they fuel the addiction, making it difficult to change. Once you recognize these thoughts for what they are, you can change your thinking.
Consider the following five-step process to evaluate your thinking:
- Recognize negative thoughts
Oftentimes, we have difficulty recognizing our negative thoughts for what they are. As you grow in recovery, you may be more able to recognize pessimistic and destructive thoughts as they come. Recognition of a negative and upsetting thought allows you to take it captive, weigh its validity, and accept or reject it.
- Refute negative thoughts
As you analyze a thought, determine if it is destructive and damaging, and if it is, you can decline and discard it and tell yourself, “That is not true and I will not accept it.” You can kick it to the side and refuse to entertain it as legitimate. Do not believe every thought you think is true, wholesome, and helpful. Determine if it is true and reject it when it is not.
- Replace negative thoughts
After you have refused a negative thought, find a positive alternative or substitute. Think about things that are true, right, and wholesome. “I can’t do this” becomes “Just a step at a time—I am making progress.”
- Rehearse positive substitutions
Because the negative thought or the negative line of thinking has been rehearsed so many times in the past, it will be necessary to repeat the positive substitution as well. You can replace negative, biased, and fear-based self-talk with positive, realistic, and empowering statements.
- Repeat the process as necessary
As you work through the process of recognizing, refuting, and replacing negative thoughts while practicing positive substitutions, it is likely another negative thought is on its way. Repeat the process as often as necessary in order to stay at peace and upbeat. Challenge your worries and fears as often as it takes.
Change Your Thinking
Using the Five Rs is a process that promotes positive thinking in the present moment. It is easy to be led by your feelings and become emotionally intense and highly reactive. Your history may include significant loss, problems in relationships, or traumatic experiences in your life. Eliminating negative and distorted thoughts and rehearsing positive substitutions will help you stay emotionally healthy. Use this method regularly, confident that changes in your mindset and life will follow.
Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!