Have you ever been angry with yourself?
A frequent experience for those in recovery when unravelling their beliefs and behaviours is to think “I shouldn’t be like this”. People often talk about how messed up they are, how they shouldn’t be an addict, or shouldn’t have anxiety or depression issues.
Examining the irrational beliefs that inform our addictive behaviour can lead to these sorts of self-loathing epiphanies. It’s an entirely natural response to the sort of emotional de-lousing that cognitive behavioural therapy entails – it can feel like you’re going over your trauma, your feelings, and your intimate personal history with a fine-toothed comb made entirely of sandpaper.
And sometimes, that makes people angry.
Next time you’re facing an urge and feeling down about it, or frustrated with your inability to “just have one drink”, try applying your CBT techniques to that anger and frustration.
If you’re thinking “I shouldn’t be like this”, or “I’m bad for feeling this way”, ask yourself where that belief has come from. Who says you should be a certain way, or that you shouldn’t be feeling urges or cravings?
Let’s approach this issue with our CBT technique:
The irrational belief is “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, or “I’m a bad person for feeling like this”. Is there any evidence for that? No, not at all. I definitely don’t like feeling angry with myself, but there’s no way for anyone to prove that they absolutely should not feel cravings, nor that they should not have issues with addictive behaviour.
What good can happen to me if I give up this belief? For a start, I won’t be mad at myself, or frustrated. I might be less irritable and easier to be around (which I’m sure those around me might appreciate). I can focus on what I’m doing well, such as continuing to overcome my urges or the behaviours which previously fed my addictions.
While doing these kinds of analytical therapeutic exercises can feel repetitive or clinical, many people attending SMART Recovery Australia meetings find that they help to overcome these feelings of negativity, and contribute to the ultimate goal of attending SMART Recovery: living a life free from the harms associated with addiction.