“It is difficult to see your thoughts when you are in your thoughts.”
Yong Kang Chan
“What starts out as an intrusive thought can turn into an overwhelming concept if we ‘feed’ it with more negative thinking.”
“You’re worried about what-ifs. Well, what if you stopped worrying?”
#2 Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
My first conscious sober act is to reduce negativity in my life.
Sobriety and Statement #2 in practice can create a more balanced state of mind as well as a change in outlook. As a part of WFS Level 2 recovery, this Statement benefits our well-being and can aid in preventing relapse. In our WFS Program booklet, it states, “Our overcoming is in exact proportion to our becoming. Negative thoughts can destroy us in many ways. An important aspect of negative thoughts for us is that such thoughts often precede using or drinking. A state of ‘what’s the use?’ or ‘who cares?’ can initiate an attempt to escape from reality.” Awareness of negative thinking can be used as a tool for red flags in recovery.
Practicing Statement #2 brought a clarity to sobriety. Unaware of thoughts for so long while under the influence, this Statement enabled understanding and the ability to stop a negative thought pattern from developing. This was especially helpful when a trigger turned into a craving. Feeling like I was holding a STOP sign, I learned that I could challenge a negative thought instead of affirming it. It took quite a bit of patience at the beginning of my recovery journey yet has evolved into one of the most effective tools in my toolbox.
It is helpful to learn that the human mind is hard-wired to pay attention to negativity. For early humans, it was a life-or-death situation to pay attention to negative or dangerous threats. Anyone who paid more attention to danger or bad things around them actually survived longer. While the threat of a hungry bear chasing after us is almost nonexistent (yet not zero), we have a type of leftover negative bias which can make us feel that we are a negative person. We are not negative, but our thoughts can be. Statement #2 helps us reduce negativity.
Here are 4 ways to reduce negativity:
1. Awareness: It begins with awareness, for you cannot manage what you are not aware of. The more aware of your thoughts, the better you can manage them.
2. Acknowledge: Your thoughts are an early warning system and are always looking out for you. Observe the thought, without judgment.
3. Question: Does this thought take me closer to or further away from my sobriety (goals)? Is this line of thinking realistic? Does this thought or concern belong to me?
4. Learn and adjust: Thoughts are simply thoughts, not reality. Learning to manage thoughts takes practice. Imagine yourself as your own Postmaster. You deliver important things, like packages, bills, or letters but you also carry a heavy load of junk mail. Sort through the important things and let go of the junk. Adjust what to keep and shred what is no longer needed. Repeat daily.
Hi 4C Women,
I have an index card in my purse with STOP on one side and a list of positive qualities on the other. Whenever I start negatively thinking, questioning my decisions, or berating myself, I get that card out as a reminder that I need to stop, pause for a while and remember that I have worked hard to see myself in a more positive light, that I have new coping tools to work through challenges, that a mistake cannot take that away and to practice self-compassion in those moments.
Being prepared with the tools Karen provided can make that STOP sign as big or bigger than the negative thought/s. I especially appreciate tool #3. I was so used to negative thinking that I never thought about how it would impact my sobriety goal. It was natural to speak negatively about myself, to think the world was a negative place that had nothing to do with my thoughts or behavior. It was what I deserved. Until I started to understand that my negative thoughts about myself were not based on reality but on old messages programmed into an automatic response of judging and hurting my already low self-esteem even more. It took time to acknowledge my role in some situations and take responsibility for that. However, even in doing that, I learned to curtail judgment and look to these challenges as life lessons.
As Karen said, thoughts are simply thoughts. I can sit with them with the hope of learning their meaning. Are they guideposts to taking a different direction, staying put, or speaking my voice with confidence to myself or someone else? Sometimes it takes a bit longer to recognize what’s important and what’s not and that’s okay. All of this is a process. This is where self-compassion grows. The goal is always to “reduce” negativity and build your self-worth and self-love to be the soft hug, and comfort you need in a difficult moment.
Bonded in reducing negativity, building your coping skills, and practicing self-compassion in the process, Dee