Start changing the way you feel by learning practical and straightforward techniques called “cognitive behavior therapy.” You can learn to change the way you think, the way you feel, and how you behave. To begin developing your knowledge of cognitive therapy, a recommended book to read is, “The Feeling Good Handbook,” by Dr. David D. Burns. This book can help you to learn to manage the most common negative emotions experienced during withdrawal and recovery. These include depression, anxiety, frustration, and anger.
For people who have experienced addiction, it is essential that they learn to recognize the automatic self-defeating negative thoughts that make them feel miserable. Negative thoughts lead to painful emotions. These painful emotions in turn convince them that their thoughts are valid. People actually trick themselves. When we have a negative emotion about an event, we experience an internal feeling of unhappiness. The feeling of unhappiness reinforces our belief that all our negative feelings must be accurate interpretations of the events in our lives (Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, 1999).
If we believe all our negative thoughts, we behave like a hamster on a tread wheel. We don’t just stop at labeling one event as negative. Because we’re feeling sad and depressed, every event starts to look negative. We have our sad lens on, and we start looking for other things that are going wrong. Feeling badly leads to even more negative interpretations which lead to more negative thoughts and more negative emotions (Burns, The Feeling Good Handbook, 1999). Now you’re on the path that spirals down into lapse or relapse.
“Cognitive approaches” are new thinking techniques to help stop the negative spiral. You can begin with learning the techniques yourself and then you can get professional support and training for new thinking skills if you decide you need the extra help. Cognitive therapy teaches you how to think more rationally and to stop the unhelpful treadmill of negative and distorted thoughts.
Distorted thinking often sounds like this:
• I’m no good at any thing so I might as well use.
• Everyone relapses and I’m no different.
• One more drink will make me feel even better.
• I have the right to be sad and angry.
• I can’t enjoy myself without using.
Alcohol and drugs are often used as a solution to negative emotions that arise from dysfunctional or distorted thinking. Begin reading “The Feeling Good Handbook,” by Dr. David Burns to start the work required to increase your rational thinking skills and reduce negative thinking.