The Art of Self Sabotage

Joel has been clean for over a year, he has completely turned his life around. He goes to meetings, attends church, and works full time. He is offered a great promotion that will be essential in building a new life with the girl he hopes to make his wife. After taking the new job, Joel is driving home and he feels proud of what he has done, and in a flash he stops by his old friend’s house to tell him the good news. Joel knows this is a bad idea because his friend uses heroin, but he goes anyway. The friend offers him a hit; Joel accepts and here begins the downward spiral where everything is lost.
If you are familiar with this scenario, you are not alone. Self-sabotage is a common practice, but coming from someone is recovery it is in the very definition of what defines most of us. That is how we got into trouble with drugs, alcohol, food, etc. in the first place. We attempted to rescue ourselves from unknowing. We were too afraid to deal with pain so we numbed it away and paid a steep price. Those lucky enough to regain sobriety have a predisposed mindset that coincides with relapse, it begins with justifying risky behaviors. Once this begins, it is hard to control the outcome and the relapse takes hold. Just what types of behaviors are associated with self-sabotage? Here are a few:

1. Trying to impress others with your emotional strength
2. Obsessive gossiping
3. The need for constant approval from peers.
4. Asking someone how he or she feels about you.

Once you hand over psychological control to another person, you lose control of yourself. Do not be fooled into thinking that someone needs to see you for other than who you truly are. When you become people, pleasing it is almost as if you are on a never-ending hamster wheel. I have done it so many times; my most common way is by over committing myself. I have a hard time saying “NO”. If I had to pinpoint how this began, I would have to say growing up in an emotionally abusive home left me feeling inadequate. I never felt smart enough, friendly enough, funny enough, etc and I subconsciously begged for approval. I would do things for people when my life as a single mother was already too difficult to handle, and I would end up losing control.
What helped me end this practice was learning it was OK to say no to others, that regardless of how others felt about me I was good enough to have anything I wanted in life. I am in my last year of college and plan on continuing for my master’s in psychology. I never would have been able to come this far had I kept living my life for others. It is a constant battle though. I must always be aware of behaviors that could ultimately harm my progress. Remembering that who I am is based entirely from who I have chosen to be and loving myself unconditionally are elements that keep me on the recovery path. If you have a problem with self-sabotage behaviors, discuss it with a counselor or other mental health professional. Don’t wait until you have already gone too far.

-Recovery Defender


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