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Addiction and Self Sabotage

This article looks at the topic of addiction and self sabotage but self sabotage is by no means only linked to giving up an addiction. We all self sabotage at times!

What is self sabotage?

Self sabotage has been defined as “the gap between intention and action”. We make an intention to act (lose weight, stop smoking etc) and the time comes, but instead of taking action we get lost in our own deliberations and excuses.  Self-sabotage is not an act, it’s a process, a complex, tragic process that pits people against their own thoughts and impulses.  You would think life would be easier, that the reasons and desires that motivate our intentions would also be sufficient to motivate action. But they’re not. If they were, we would be machines and there would be no such thing as free will. The self must choose to act.

Procrastination is a common form of self sabotage – “I want to stop smoking, but I’ll wait until after my holiday.” We think of procrastination as an irrational delay because our reasons for action simply aren’t sufficient to motivate action. More accurately, procrastination is a-rational, without reason—because the real issue is emotional. Although we may know intellectually what we ought to do right now, we don’t feel like doing it. So we focus on short-term mood repair: Feel good now, worry about that intention later. Short-term gain, long-term pain.

Why do we procrastinate?  For many reasons: We most commonly put off things we don’t like to do or that upset us in some way. We don’t want to tolerate the negative emotions. We want to feel good NOW!!! But this means we sabotage our long-term goals. Our intentions are vague and weak (I’ll put that on the long finger!!!). Of course, for some, ill-defined intentions are part of the problem, part of the self-sabotage. We don’t really feel like doing the task, so we make vague declarations like “I’ll do that later.”  We’re easily distracted, and some of us are highly impulsive. “It will take me only a minute to check my email, update my Facebook page, find the recipe, read that blog….” Oops, where did the day go?

The urge to “put a spanner in the works”

We have a need for excitement. Again we ALL do this – things are a little slow and boring and something in us gets an overwhelming urge to stir things up a bit  – put a spanner in the works. Fear takes over – of failure or of change – and we go back to our old ways because they feel comforting and familiar, even safe –  “better the devil you know” We fall into self pity, helplessness, low self esteem – “I failed yesterday so I may as well give up altogether”

Addiction and self sabotage

When we give up an addiction, it is vital that we plan ahead for the possibility of self do we do this?

  1.  Be mindful:  notice the inner voice (e.g. I’m never going to feel better, I’m not strong enough to do this), triggers (what were they, how can you manage them in future), symptoms (spot the pattern, what leads to what?)
  2. Think flexibly  – remember that success isn’t black or white
  3. Don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater” – Recognise that change may lead to anxiety, at first because it means challenging deeply engrained, old and familiar attitudes that we’ve long held about ourselves
  4. Plan ahead – set clear goals
  5. Don’t have too high expectations, don’t be impatient
What to do if a relapse occurs

It is said that it takes on average EIGHT attempts before we finally overcome an addiction – and so again planning ahead for the possibility of relapse, of falling off the wagon, is essential:

  1. Use the relapse as a learning experience – take some time out and think about what you are doing.
  2. Stay calm and examine the relapse openly in order to minimise the amount of guilt and shame you feel about it.
  3. Analyse what the triggers were
  4. Renew your commitment – remind yourself of your success so far.
  5. Look for help and support from friends, family and support groups
  6. Make an immediate plan and get back on track
Extra Resources about overcoming addiction

Excellent and practical book: Freedom from addiction: The secret behind successful addiction busting by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell    Superb video talk on addiction by Dr Gabor Mate

Need some advice and support?

If you are struggling with addiction and self sabotage or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.

See also: Overcoming Addiction, Struggling With Addiction?