In a recent post, I talked about cognitive distortions—ways of thinking that are all about what’s inside your head rather than what’s actually going on in your life. Addicts and alcoholics sometimes engage in all-or-nothing thinking: “If it isn’t perfect, it’s a total failure.” After just one mistake, they may become judgmental and critical of themselves and stop trying. Or they may blame others and decide the world is just stacked against them. This often keeps them from reaching their goals, because if one thing doesn’t go well or go their way, they just walk away.
Learning how to set goals and keep working at them is an important skill in your sobriety. But if you’re stuck in all-or-nothing thinking, you may not even bother. It’s important to remember that just because you make a mistake or even relapse, it doesn’t mean you can’t reach your goal. You can.
A well-thought-out plan is the tool that will help you stick to your goals. A plan is like a map that shows you the way to get to your big goal that’s way down the road. When you make a careful, detailed plan, laying out the steps you will take that keep you on the path of right action, your way is clear and you can keep moving forward. Your journey of a thousand miles might seem daunting, but when it’s broken down into single steps, each one is do-able.
Each step along the path must honor who you are and the way you want to live your sober life. You cannot cut corners. The Law of Sobriety says that when you stray from your true path or try to take a shortcut, you will never get where you want to be.
An added bonus is that taking things slowly leaves you room to be open to making changes if your plan needs to be revised or if you realize you are taking on more than you can handle at each step.
If you encounter resistance from within yourself while setting your goals and planning out your path, know that this is perfectly normal. Resistance happens when distorted thinking kicks in. It’s that sabotaging voice that tells you, “You’ll never succeed, you don’t have what it takes, don’t bother.” That’s your fear talking. Fear makes you think you can’t succeed.
Recognize your fear for what it is: just one way of thinking about the world. Acknowledge the feelings you are experiencing, let them go, and get back to setting your goals.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach and author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.” She is also the Psychotherapist that appears on Celebrity Rehab on VH1.