How to Sabotage Your Recovery This Holiday Season

how to sabotage your recovery this holiday season

My mom died. I need a sedative.

I’m so stressed out. I need a drink.

I finally graduated. I deserve to celebrate and get high.

Some experts say that behind all self-sabotage efforts is a sense of entitlement, the “I deserve this” concept that indicates that people feel they are working too hard in recovery with no perceived reward.


Others say that self-sabotage comes from a fear of success. Though they genuinely want to stay sober in theory, they fear what that looks like in practice and make choices that, on some level, they know will put them in the position to relapse.


Still others say that the true driving force behind self-sabotage in recovery comes from a lack of internalizing new coping mechanisms as a truly viable option. That is, though you may have gone to rehab and learned about what you have to do in every part of your life to stay healthy and make healthier choices, you may not have ever been able to clearly visualize yourself using those tools successfully, and the idea that use of drugs and alcohol is some kind of a reward or a relief, rather than the destructive and deadly habit it is, may linger.


Are you sabotaging your own recovery?

Signs of Sabotage


  • Do you try hard to stay on track in recovery, working to fill as many minutes of your week as possible with recovery-related activities, and then suddenly, or slowly, cut things out of your schedule until you are doing little or nothing?
  • Do you know all there is to know about recovery but find that you just can’t make it happen in your own life?
  • Do you choose to surround yourself with people who are having a harder time than you are in recovery, especially those who are new to recovery and/or relapse regularly?
  • Do you worry what your life might look like in sobriety once you are solid in recovery and can begin to remove some of the “tent poles” holding you up (e.g., daily 12-Step meetings, etc.)?


Sobriety Is an Achievable Goal


The good news is that no matter what the reason for your self-sabotage is, and no matter how complicated the psychology is behind the choices you make in recovery regarding moving closer to or further away from relapse, sobriety is a goal you can turn into a reality.


You can start by doing a little prep work so you and your therapist can dig down into what is going on with you and where your focus needs to be as you work through these issues. For example, you can do the following:


  • Keep a journal and notice shifts in your perspective toward recovery. If you can look back at how things changed over time, you might notice that those shifts were triggered by stress, difficult relationships, issues with friends, and other external issues.
  • Write out all the reasons why you may be scared of living a sober life for the long-term. Be as specific as possible. If you are nervous about all the responsibilities that come with a sober adult life, scared you won’t be able to handle a healthy relationship with anyone, or feel that recovery is a boring way to live and there is no excitement to be had in sobriety, write it down.
  • Write out all the things you have to gain by staying sober. Consider your health, any legal problems (or legal problems you would avoid), your relationships with friends and family, your happiness, your level of stress, and your finances – everything that is negatively impacted by continued drug and alcohol use that would be positively supported by your continued recovery.
  • Create a list of behavior-specific goals that you think would define a happy life for you in recovery. Who are you in recovery? Who do you want to be? Do you want to be working in the tech industry? Do you want to start your own business? Do you want to be married? Do you want to be single? Do you want to see Spain? Do you want to move back to your hometown? Create goals that will help you to move closer to these ideals and work with your therapist to determine the best path forward to make one – if not all – a reality in your life starting now.

When you are able to forgive yourself for the past, focus on feeling solid in the present, and start to construct a path forward to a life that is far more exciting, rewarding, and peaceful than a life defined by active substance abuse, you will find that the self-sabotaging choices will be fewer and farther between, giving you the opportunity to grow strong enough in recovery to overcome them without relapse.

How will you help yourself to stop self-sabotaging behaviors in recovery?


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