Dealing with Negativity in Recovery

Negativity is a major warning sign in recovery. People in 12-step programmes know that if someone starts becoming negative, cynical, or pessimistic, relapse is right around the corner. If you find the pink cloud is turning grey and you are chronically dissatisfied, here are some ways to change your perspective.

Remember HALT. Start with the basics. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Any of these might be souring your experience of life. Hunger and fatigue are especially insidious because we don’t automatically connect them to our emotional state like we do with anger or loneliness. Hunger can mean your blood sugar is low, which can make you irritable. Fatigue makes every problem seem bigger and more threatening. Before you go searching all around for the source of your negativity, try something basic like a healthy snack or a nap.

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Remember negativity is just a feeling. When we feel bad for whatever reason, we make up a story to justify it. Maybe you feel a bit down, possibly because you’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, but then you start looking for evidence to validate your bad mood. When you look for the evidence you usually find it. Remember there is no objective truth in your negative feeling. The world just is. The negativity is only in your mind and you can decide to interpret the world in a more positive way if you want to.

Challenge negative beliefs. Negativity is usually fuelled by negative beliefs such as, ‘Everything is terrible’, or ‘Everything I do is terrible’. These beliefs are usually distortions of reality. Whenever you catch yourself thinking this way, try challenging the thought. You may feel like everything is terrible, but if you spend five minutes thinking about it, you can probably come up with a decent list of things that are pretty good. It’s especially important to challenge negative beliefs about yourself. People feel the worst when they believe they are fundamentally inadequate and that they are completely incapable of changing. In reality, everyone is good at something and it’s impossible not to change.

Watch your language. If you want to know whether you are becoming too negative, try this experiment: for one whole day, don’t complain or criticise. If you find you don’t have much to say, it could be that your default is to be negative. If you keep up the ‘no complaining’ rule, you will challenge yourself to find more neutral or positive things to say. This will eventually make your orientation more positive too.

Talk to someone. If something is really bothering you, don’t let it consume you. Talk to someone you trust about it. If you just feel negative in general, you might feel better spending time with friends and other people who support you.



Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. Smarmore Castle believes in helping patients lead a life of abstinence through 12 Step programmes, detox and medical treatment, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.

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