Self-sabotaging behavior is extremely common, not just in addiction treatment or addiction recovery, but in everyday life. We self-sabotaged in our active alcohol or drug addiction, and we will probably continue self-sabotaging efforts in recovery. We find that self-sabotage is often driven by doubts in your own capabilities, expectations, etc. What we do know about self-sabotage is that it can be completely avoided, if you are willing to recognize, understand, and change your behavior.
What is Self-Sabotage?
Have you ever heard of the expression “shooting yourself in the foot”? This perfectly sums up self-sabotage. The definition of sabotage, as provided by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, is…
1) destruction of property or the hindering of manufacturing by discontented workers
2) destructive or obstructive action
3) a. an act or process tending to hamper or hurt
b. deliberate subversion
Self-sabotage is when you do some, or all of the above, to yourself. Essentially, self-sabotaging is anything that you do to hinder your own progress. Taking the first portion of the definition and interpreting it to fit an addict or alcoholic, self-sabotage is basically when you destroy or prevent something productive because you are discontented. We think this notion is powerful, as it shows self-sabotage is born from discontentment.
How We Self-Sabotage
Sometimes, our behaviors scream self-sabotage, but other efforts to self-sabotage can be more subtle. Here are some ways that we self-sabotage:
- negative self-talk
- not trying
- staying stuck in the past
- engaging with toxic people
- poor use of your time
- focusing on other people instead of yourself
- staying stuck in the planning stage
- acting out
- giving up
Perpetuating thoughts like “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m stupid”, etc. are examples of negative self-talk. Basically, when our thoughts are degrading to ourself or our efforts, we are engaging in negative self-talk.
This is perhaps the most common form of self-sabotage. We may never try, or never really try, to do something— this is all rooted in fear. A fear of failure will prevent you from putting your all into something, because you are scared that you won’t be successful, or good at it, or it won’t be fulfilling. This is the most dangerous way to act, as nothing impactful happens in our comfort zone.
Letting your past actions overwhelm and control your future will hinder your progression. Point blank period.
One clear-cut way to self-sabotage is by spending time with toxic people. Toxic people present themselves as friends, romantic partners, and even family members. You are hindering your own growth by hanging around people who don’t care about their own growth, which is why the company you keep is important— especially in addiction treatment and recovery. The company you keep will impact you, so choose wisely.
Do you find yourself constantly lending your time to other people or things that aren’t actually helping you? It’s important to use your time wisely, time is the most valuable resource— it’s finite and you can’t ever get it back once it’s spent.
Say you have a treatment assignment where you need to make a timeline of the most significant events in your life— you wouldn’t want to spend days writing out everything thats ever happened in your life, you would want to write down the events that stick out to you and then put it down on paper in chronological order to complete the task. This distinction can save hours of unnecessary work, which is why you should work smarter and not harder to get it done. Poor usage of your time is self-sabotage because its prolongs the time you spend in between doing something and growing from it.
It’s a great thing to be other-centered and all, but in addiction treatment and recovery especially, you need to know when to put yourself first. Your needs need to be addressed, and by focusing on everyone else you are hindering that personal growth. You could be self-sabotaging like this if you constantly become a listening ear for other people’s problems, and providing advice to everyone except yourself.
If you are avoiding something that you need to handle, you are self-sabotaging. For example, avoiding taking responsibility for something awful that you did in active addiction, will hold you back in your progression during recovery. Another example is avoiding emotions. Say you don’t want to cry because you think others will judge you, so you avoid talking about any of the sad feelings you have, this is one way to greatly hurt yourself on the road to recovery. Things cannot be avoided forever, they will still be exactly where you left them until you face them.
Planning is an important part of doing, but if you are constantly planning you are avoiding the action of doing! Planning is a lot of work, but don’t let yourself get stuck in feeling productive by making elaborate plans that lead to no action. We think planning is important, but planning is only important when you use that plan to take action.
One of the most common forms of self-sabotage is acting out (no surprise here). If we are feeling overwhelmed or under-appreciated or fill in the blank, we can try to divert those feelings with action. Some ways that people who self-sabotage can act out are: yelling at a coworker, skip a commitment, have sex at random, self-harm/self-injurious behavior, get a tattoo or piercing on a whim, call out of work, leave work early, become aggressively angry, and the list goes on.
Whether it be giving up a relationship, or if you stop trying to do something that’s helping you, giving up is another self-sabotaging behavior that stems from fear. You could just be giving up on adding meditation to your routine, but giving up when your expectations are not fulfilled. Part of addiction recovery is learning to do things that will be gratifying long term— we need to train ourselves to do things without the expectation of instant gratification.
Self-Sabotaging in Drug Rehab
You could be engaging in many self-sabotaging behaviors without even realizing it. While you are in rehabilitation for drugs or alcohol, it’s important to be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors— so that you can better understand yourself, how you feel and how you react. This is the insight you need to recover fully. To stop self-sabotaging, you first need to recognize your self-sabotaging behavior. Ask yourself what you are avoiding, what you are afraid of, what are the possible outcomes to your current behavior and an opposite behavior, and what is causing you discontentment currently. Speak to your therapist to better understand the motives and intentions behind your self-sabotaging behaviors, your triggers, and patterns of behavior.
Remember, if you burn bridges, you take away the possibility of moving forward. Burning bridges leaves you stuck in the same place.
At Royal Life Centers, we have addiction treatment programs designed to follow guests through the stages of recovery, offering guidance and support along the way. Our treatment options include both inpatient rehab and outpatient programming. Royal Life Centers has treatment programs including: medical detox, a residential inpatient program, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), an outpatient program (OP), sober living and graduate housing. We also provide services for alumni and family members.
Our addiction centers treat alcoholism and an addiction to drugs including: opioids, methamphetamine, cocaine, crack, heroin, benzodiazepines, and any other substance use disorder. We use a variety of intensive therapies to treat addiction, including: individual therapy sessions, group therapy, behavioral therapies, adventure therapy, activity therapy, and equine therapy. Our behavioral therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. We also provide medically-assisted detox and medication-assisted treatment on a case-by-case basis. Our treatment centers are located in the states of Washington and Arizona. We provide comprehensive addiction treatment for prescription or illicit drug substance abuse, substance use disorder, and alcohol use disorder, using proven effective methods of addiction treatment and only the best practices. We are also experienced in treating dually-diagnosed guests who may also suffer from a mental health disorder in addition to their substance abuse.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction and seeking treatment, please reach out to us at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our team of addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.
“Sabotage.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sabotage.