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Are You Playing the Victim in Recovery?

Annoyed young woman covering her face with hand

If you’re like most people in recovery, the response to the question of whether or not you are playing the victim for any reason is met with incredulous disgust, surprise, or perhaps offense. The fact is that many people who claim victim status do so without even realizing it. In active addiction, it is normal to engage in a range of behaviors for the sole purpose of getting whatever you feel you need in the moment to maintain your addiction. Many of these behaviors become normalized over time, and in recovery, they do not fade away with drug use.

It is for this reason that it is important to work on yourself and how you interact with others long after you get through the process of detox. The behaviors that worked for you in active addiction will not work for you in recovery if your goals are positive relationships and healthy living. Choosing to ignore how your behaviors are impacting your experience means higher chances of stress, anger, and other emotional triggers for relapse.

But the first step, of course, is to recognize what it is that is causing you to stumble in creating the life you want for yourself. Is playing the victim something that you do perhaps without even realizing it?

Here’s what you need to know:

● One of the first signs of playing the victim is a generalized sense of anger or entitlement that seems to pervade everything. Are you usually annoyed by something or someone? Do you spend a lot of time complaining to your friends about things going on in your life? Do you often feel irritated and just don’t know why? If you find you are often focused on how you are not being treated fairly, not getting what you need or want, or in general wishing for more without doing much to try and get your needs met, it can be a sign of playing the victim.

● If you can’t seem to get any traction or make progress on things in your life – like getting and maintaining employment, finding an equitable living situation, or having really good friends in your life – it may be in part due to negativity and the assumption that others are sabotaging you despite your best efforts. This viewpoint can make it difficult to see the good in things, hold out for long-term benefits, and trust the people around you as you move forward.

● When you play the victim, it is a form of manipulation. Any kind of manipulation is not a positive way to get your needs met in recovery. It can damage your relationships, cause people to stop respecting you, and stop you from getting where you want to be in your career.

● It is possible to learn healthier ways of getting your needs met in recovery. When you choose to be more self-reliant, you will find that your self-confidence and your perspective improve. In addition, your relationships grow stronger as well.

● When you become proactive in your own life, trust yourself to come up with positive solutions to the challenges you face, and follow through on your plans to improve yourself and your life, you will find that your cravings for drugs and alcohol decrease accordingly. The stronger you feel in your life and the more capable you feel of creating positive change, the less likely it is that you will feel compelled to drink or get high.

● In some cases, playing the victim and other forms of manipulation are symptomatic of a personality disorder. Narcissist victim syndrome, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder are just a few of the co-occurring mental health disorders that may be indicated in part by chronic victim playing.

Are you struggling with taking care of yourself in recovery and learning how to have positive and appropriate interactions with people who promote healthy relationships? Are you trying to figure out how best to get your needs met while staying sober?

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