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5 Types of Thinking That Will Get You Everywhere in Recovery

Handsome young man on a lake in a sunny, peaceful day, sitting on a wood pier, thinking or meditating

Do you feel like you are in a rut, often making the same choices over and over again and getting the same results?

For many, the first positive change in ineffective behavior choices started with letting go of alcohol and drug use—a huge first step and arguably the most important. But if you want to make it easier to stay sober and avoid relapse in recovery, you can try a few other changes in your thinking patterns to open the door to new possibilities. Here are a few to get you started.

    Infographic on the five types of thinking
  1. Shared Thinking

    Do you often go along with what your friends are doing or follow the group without really considering whether it’s the best thing for you personally? When it comes to something like choosing which coffeeshop to go to after a meeting, engaging in shared thinking will probably not have a huge impact on your sobriety. But if, for example, you are staying at that coffeeshop for hours every day just because other people from the 12-step meeting are doing so, is it really the best use of your time as you are working to rebuild in recovery? If you see people you know who still drink or get high, should you be continually exposed to that? If someone from the group is on the verge of relapse or unfocused on making positive choices in the recovery, is it the best thing for you to do with your time?

    The idea with shared thinking is to take a step back and consider whom it is you spend the most time with. Some experts say that we are all the average of the five people we are most often with. If your engagement with a particular group is holding you back, it might be time to change up your group and spend more time with people who are already living the life in recovery that you want to live.

  2. Positive Thinking

    Positive thinking does not mean ignoring the risks in different options that come up and choosing instead to focus on the possible benefits of a given choice. Instead, the idea is to consider options that may initially seem off-putting or impossible and give them a real chance. Positive thinking, or possibility thinking, focuses on what could be accomplished by taking different routes of action and questioning any assumptions upon which you may be basing your decision.

    For example, if you assume that you can’t apply for a certain job or get into school because of your recent past in addiction, ask yourself why you are placing limitations on yourself and what could happen if you give yourself a chance.

  3. Negative Thinking

    When one thing goes wrong, it is easy to give up and view everything in a negative light. For example, if you get turned down for a job you applied for, you might think, “I’ll never find a job. There’s no way I can make this work. The only thing I’m good at it is dealing. I might as well stop pretending and go back to what I know.”

    Of course, this kind of thinking won’t help you stay sober, but when you apply your negative thinking critically, it can help you to make progress in recovery. For example, if you get turned down for a job, you can take a look at what you did and what you could have done differently. Were you appropriately dressed? Were you too informal? Were you rude? Did you have the education and experience they were looking for? It may be that they were looking for someone with a different work history, or perhaps you could make some changes that will make future interviews more successful.

  4. Free Thinking

    Are you in a rut, doing the same things day in and day out? Boredom is one of the biggest risk factors for relapse in recovery, and free thinking can help you to break out of feeling like you have to do things the same way or a certain way all the time.

    For example, if you feel that where you are living is not conducive to your sobriety, but you can’t move because it’s close to work or you live with a good friend who might be offended if you move out, there is no reason to feel trapped. You can use free thinking to brainstorm other living situations nearby or a place for both of you in another part of town, or come up with creative ways to handle any issues that you feel are stopping you from getting what you need to stay sober.

  5. Reflective Thinking

    If you feel stalled in recovery or you are having a hard time feeling inspired or happy with your life, it’s time for reflective thinking. Consider where you were a couple of months ago, a year ago, or five years ago. Make a list of all the ways your life has changed, for the better, for the worse, or stayed neutral. What have you learned about yourself during this time? What have learned about life? What have you found to work for you, and how can you apply more of that to your life today?

    With some self-reflection, you may identify a goal you forgot you had or remember a favorite hobby you had forgotten and be able to create a positive shift in your life.

How can you change up your thinking to boost your recovery? What other changes can you make to improve your life in sobriety?

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