“I’ll just have one. It’s no big deal.”
“I can’t have fun unless I’m __________ (drinking, smoking, gambling, etc.)”
“I can handle it; it’s not a problem.”
It often seems that the moment you decide to quit an addictive substance or activity, the deluding, conniving self-talk begins. Before you know it, this deceptive self-talk has become a deafening self-shout, and the danger of relapse is just around the corner. That’s the power of language and how it shapes our thoughts and actions.
But it is possible to get a hold of this self-defeating, one-way conversation. Change your self-talk and you change yourself.
Addictions help people avoid unpleasant or painful emotions. People develop addictions not only to substances—such as drugs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, food—but also to activities, such as gambling, sex, the Internet, work, theft, shopping. The common thread is a preoccupation that interferes with life, continued use or involvement despite negative consequences, and loss of control. While they may bring short-term relief, addictions result in long-term nightmares.
To the voices in your head, however, it’s ALL about the short-term relief.
Lynne Namka, author of Avoiding Relapse: Catching Your Inner Con, refers to this self-talk as the “Inner Con.” This is the grand seducer who tempts you to go back to your addiction with huge fabrications, distortions, tricks and rationalizations that ignore the severe emotional, interpersonal and physical consequences of continued use.
“Your Inner Con is absorbed in totally protecting and preserving itself,” she writes. “It feeds your fixation and agonizes about not being complete without using. It seduces, swindles and victimizes you to go against yourself and your better nature. It divides your psyche and creates mistrust in yourself. Its purpose is to keep hounding you until you weaken and give in. It will say anything to get you to use.”
This Inner Con is the fear-based part of you. It fears change. It fears facing the unpleasant and painful emotions that the addiction hides. Actually, it’s the active voice of your addiction.
But it is not who you are. It is just a fragment of the total you.
By understanding this, relapse into addiction becomes only one choice of many. Doing some or all of the following actions will help counter this negative, seductive self-talk:
Get support. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, or attend 12-step meetings. Work with a mental health professional. Find an “accountability partner.”
Engage other inner characters. Why let your Inner Con hog the microphone? What does your Inner Healer have to say? Your Inner Hero? Your Inner Cheerleader?
Counter the negative, distorted self-talk with affirmations. “I am the master, not the slave. I choose not to smoke,” or “I am able to say ‘No.’ I choose to read a book rather than use the Internet,” or “I am a good person, and I choose to have friends who do not pressure me into drinking with them.”
Journal. Make lists of all of your Inner Con’s statements. Write dialogues between this and other inner characters. Write all the emotions that surface when you’re not engaged in your addiction. Then talk to a friend, a sponsor or your therapist.
Schedule daily contemplation time to help change beliefs and destructive self-talk. Use this time to journal, meditate, pray, read or study. You may want to make this a daily practice for the rest of your life.
Replacing the negative self-talk with supportive beliefs and self-talk frees up blocked positive energy. It puts you on a path not to destruction but to fulfillment.
With counseling centers, ANOCS provides therapy for those with addictions to drugs and alcohol as well as marriage counseling and relational therapy for couples and individuals.
*Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications