Denial. Blame. Regret. Guilt. Anything to keep us from facing our addiction. If we can hide behind words or emotions, then we do not have to face the facts. We do not have to do anything about a problem we do not think we have, and we certainly do not have to enter treatment if we can blame our behaviors and actions on someone or something else. Five of the most dangerous words for an addict: “I don’t have a problem.”
We have all seen a young child “hide” by covering their own eyes. Everyone can see that they are right there. Nothing has changed, except for their sweet, naïve perception: ‘if I cannot see them, they cannot see me.’ Denial works exactly like that. So long as we are unwilling to look at the world, we think the world cannot see our problems. That cannot be further from the truth, though.
The child learns quickly to keep their vision clear to see what is really going on and that hiding is a different game altogether. But our minds are not so willing to learn that our habits and behaviors cannot be hidden from others. That level of denial is most damaging to ourselves. Everyone else can see that we need help, but until we admit that, we won’t get help.
It is easy to blame our substance use on our environment, family or friends, or other external factors. And most of us have had really, really hard lives, to be fair. But we are always going to be held responsible for our reaction to any circumstances, no matter how difficult. If our reaction is to use substances to deal with life, then we have no one else to blame for that but ourselves.
When we blame other people or things for our substance use, we tell ourselves it is not our fault, which artificially absolves ourselves of our responsibility. Without taking any responsibility, we give ourselves permission to use as much as we want. Whatever the consequences of our actions, we simply blame others. Meanwhile, we are hurting ourselves the most.
Regret begins by one little thought, looking back on something with sadness or disappointment. Our minds naturally start to put that thought on a loop in our minds, and we have more and more regrets until we can no longer even think about anything else. We find more things to regret, adding to our playlist until our minds are filled with negative views of ourselves and our actions.
When the only video we allow our mind to see is regret, we are immobilized to do anything else at all. Feelings of worthlessness become how we view ourselves. If we were not already using substances, now we would want to more than ever. And the cycle just continues.
If regret immobilizes us, our guilt sets us firmly in cement. In a rock quarry in the middle of the desert. Locked in place with chains. Guilt keeps us from being happy, but guilt also keeps us from doing anything we should in order to be healthy.
It is the goodness in all of us that triggers a guilty reaction to something we have done. And feeling guilty is meant to push us toward apologizing, making amends, forgiveness, and changing our ways. But when we are using substances, the guilt is often blown out of proportion. It becomes like that dot… when held far away from us, we can see that it is just a small dot. But when we hold it close to our eye, it is all we can see.
Guilt is helpful when kept in perspective. However, when using and abusing substances, it can become another whole monster to wrestle with. It can lead to depression, self-esteem problems, suicidal thoughts and more. Most importantly, it tells us that we are hopeless and helpless, and that is never true.
All of these types of thinking are negative thought processes. They turn our minds on themselves and create endless loops of adverse thoughts and feelings. Not only do they help us spiral downward in our addictions, but they also cause depression and potentially suicidal thoughts. They also greatly impact our self-esteem long term. And yet this is one part of addiction that we can have some control over.
Denial, regret, blame, and guilt all absolve us of the natural consequences of our actions. We can keep ruminating on the negative things in our heads, or we can take a deep breath and try something new. Instead of saying “I don’t have a problem,” we can listen to that tiny conscience inside of us that has been screaming at us, but drowned out by all of the negative thinking. We can listen to that voice, and pick up the phone and call Enlight right now at (805) 719-7954 so we can help you stop the negative thinking and start living again.