Thoughts and beliefs: How they affect our sobriety

Jun 23, 2020 | Addiction, Substance Abuse

When beginning the recovery process from drugs or alcohol, we must examine what our thoughts and beliefs are and if our actions are supporting those thoughts and beliefs or discounting them. The old adage that you are what you believe you are is still very true. At the beginning of the recovery process, we realize that we have adopted a belief system that may not be true to who we really are or what we believed we were before the rise of our alcohol or drug use. We begin to examine the way we thought and believed about specific areas of our lives. The truth we must find is if our thoughts have any basics of fact to enable them to become a belief. The truth may be that our recent past may be filled with actions that do not represent who we really are. These actions may be the opposite of what we believe in or do not represent our core values.

First, let’s examine what a thought is. A thought can be described as an idea, a mental picture, or any mental activity that causes the brain to evaluate a current, past, or future situation or idea. You are able to have a thought about a past, future, or current experience. The ability to think is ingrained into us as functioning humans. We must constantly evaluate where we are, what we are doing, and if our current situation is putting us in any danger. This is part of the thinking process. As we have thoughts during our daily lives we must evaluate if it is positive or negative, does it help us in our daily functioning and activities, and will it benefit us to continue in the production of thought. Many times we know instantly that what we are thinking will not produce positive results for that day or in the future. When beginning sobriety we must learn to evaluate quickly which thoughts to pursue into actions and which ones to discard immediately due to their ability to bring about negative consequences.

Letting a Thought Become a Belief

Part of the thinking process is letting a thought become a belief. For a thought to become a belief, generally the thought has to be backed up by evidence presented to us by another form of communication. This communication may be from another individual, a media outlet, or a demonstration that evidences the validity of the thought. Once we see or hear of action that validates the thought it now has the ability to become part of our belief system. Since our topic is how these thoughts and beliefs affect our sobriety, we must determine if the new knowledge gained in the forming of the belief is accurate and beneficial to our sobriety. An example would be if another tells us that due to our addiction we are a bad employee. Our first thought can be that they are completely wrong and we would try to discount any evidence that we could recall being a bad employee. The evidence in this example may be us showing up late for work or not producing at a level that was critical to the job function. We may then try to discount the information by telling ourselves that we may have shown up late however we always worked harder than everyone else so the tardiness is justified. We may also believe that our inability to produce to the company standards was limited due to the work of others and how they affected our ability to produce. The original information about our employment status and the following justification and rationalization of our behavior was initially due to the information from others. In this instance, we chose not to let the information become part of our belief system. In the recovery process, we want to be able to take in information from other sources, think about this information critically, and then form a belief based on current real-time dependable sources. We must also be open to the thoughts of others that may verify or negate the information we are contemplating. If we are open to gathering and respecting the information from others regarding our work standards we would be able to determine if the original thought is now a belief. If the new information gathered determines I have been lacking in my job performance that this must now become a belief. If this belief goes against who I want to be as an individual I must now take action to change the belief. In our example, if I begin to arrive to work on time and produce at a level that is acceptable to my employer I will begin to change the belief that I am not a good employee and will begin to believe that I am a good employee.

If I have beliefs about myself that are negative they will continue to provide negative results. The goal is to begin to question those beliefs, how did they begin and what must I change in order to make them part of a positive part of my belief system. Many times in recovery a person will reveal things they have done in their past that they are not proud of. In disclosing these events to a person new to recovery (newcomer), that person may be able to relate to the situation and may have similar circumstances in their past. By hearing this disclosure from another, the newcomer hopefully will realize that their past negative events are not unique to them and that others have been or may be in a similar situation. With the revealing of the lack of uniqueness of our behavior, the newcomer to sobriety will be able to reconcile that if another has done similar events and is now sober, maybe they can be sober too. The sharing of these negative events thus benefits both the newcomer and the person who initially shared their negative history. The newcomer benefits by realizing they are not alone and the initial person who shares begins to realize that the sharing of their past negative behavior can help others progress in their recovery.

In the recovery process, there will be many beliefs that are questioned and new information will help the individual to reframe how they look at their past. Examining these thoughts and beliefs is part of being open-minded to outside information in order to gain and keep sobriety. In recovery, we must grow in knowledge and begin to learn again about ourselves, our past, our future, and our relationship to others. Part of this growth will be done alone, however much of it will be done with the help of others. The help may be found in self-help groups, through professional therapists, or just the time spent with a trusted friend or family member.

Challenging beliefs is hard and it takes time. The time is acquired by ceasing actions that were not productive and using that time for self-reflection and examination. In recovery, it is ok to take your time in learning about yourself. Time now becomes a valuable asset instead of a depleting commodity.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above symptoms or problems, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Our affiliate, MHThrive, provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit to learn more.