How to Combat Negative Thinking

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How to Combat Negative Thinking

How to Combat Negative Thinking

How to Combat Negative Thinking in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is a life-changing process. It’s not only a physical journey but an emotional one as well, often requiring a new perspective. In the early stages of recovery, it is natural for people to feel like they are on an emotional rollercoaster or be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, but the key to lasting success is to overcome these mental roadblocks. 

The Best Ways to Stop Negative Thoughts in Recovery 

As a dual diagnosis treatment center in Florida, we know that addiction is both a physical and mental battle, and combating negative thinking in recovery is no walk in the park. Brain studies of people suffering from addiction show physical changes in areas of the brain that affect decision making, learning, memory, and behavior.2 As a result, negative thinking can be difficult to control. It may cause you to lose sight of your progress and ultimately lead to relapse. Instead of letting these harmful thoughts control you, follow these tips on how to combat negative thinking in addiction recovery and move past them. 

Identify Negative Thinking  

Negative thinking is a learned way of thinking based on false beliefs or selective facts that often leads to a negative outcome. These thoughts can be irrational and may lead to anxiety, stress, or depression; all of which can cause a relapse.3 Unfortunately, harmful thought patterns are not always easy to recognize. In recovery, you will need to make a conscious effort to analyze your thoughts and pick out those that are toxic or irrational. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for addiction is a useful therapy program that teaches recovering addicts how to pull out and break down these negative thoughts.   

Some common negative thinking patterns include:

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: “If I make one mistake I’ll fail completely.”
  • Disqualifying the Positives (Focusing on the Negatives): “Nothing is happening the way I want it to.”
  • Catastrophizing: “I can’t do this, it won’t work. I’m not strong enough.”
  • Self-Labeling: “I’m a failure. I’ll never be able to recover.”

Keep a Thought Record

One of the best ways to combat negative thinking in addiction recovery is to keep a record of negative thoughts you have and what situations brought them on. A thought record can be used to help you identify the sources of your negative thinking. It encourages you to analyze the situation as well as your initial reaction to it. From here you can try to find ways to combat your negative thoughts. Looking back on past logs can also offer insight on how to better approach triggering situations. Eventually, you may learn how to avoid negative thinking in recovery. 

Find New Sources of Joy 

People use drugs for different reasons, but the most common motivation is because it makes them feel good. After leaving residential addiction treatment, staying positive can be challenging because you can no longer rely on drugs or alcohol to make you happy. When negative thinking makes its way into addiction recovery, it can also disqualify your progress while glamorizing the addiction.2 An important rule of thumb to combat negative thinking in recovery is to find things you enjoy and put your energy into them. Revisit hobbies you set aside, visit someplace new, or try out a new activity. 

Ask for Help

You do not need to go through this alone. Not only do self-help groups keep you accountable, but they also provide you with emotional support. Individuals may feel undeserving of help or overwhelmed by the recovery process, but studies show that attending self-help groups reduces the chances of relapse.2 Joining these groups will also allow you to meet other people in recovery and help you to feel less alone. When you realize that others can relate, it helps to get rid of some of your negative thinking in sobriety. 

Think Positively & Love Yourself 

Feelings like guilt and shame are common in recovery, but they shouldn’t take over your life in recovery. Although it’s difficult to release the negative thoughts and emotions tied to your addiction, it’s important to remember your current successes. You are deserving of a full and healthy recovery. Don’t allow your past behaviors to disrupt your current progress. Remember to celebrate your achievements, learn from your setbacks, and love yourself in addiction recovery. 

At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we understand that addiction recovery is a multifaceted journey. To help our patients find long-term success in sobriety, we cover everything from how to combat negative thinking in addiction recovery to maintain a healthy routine. 

To get started on the road to recovery or to learn more about how to help a loved one in need, call us today at 561-220-3981



  1. NIH- The Science of Drug Use: Discussion Points
  2. NCBI- Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery

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