thoughts-1430678What you believe—about life, about people, about yourself—is key to how your recovery from addiction progresses. A flawed belief system helps keep you mired in the past or prevents you from envisioning, or believing in, your future.

Recently I met with Kyle. He had been using opioids, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol to self-medicate for more than twenty years. He began using when he was 16, and he’s now 36. Although he’s actively using substances, and he’s often stoned during daylight hours, he’s still managed to hold down part-time  and even some full-time jobs. 

Kyle is extremely charismatic and a warm, artistic person. He has a lot of friends, many of whom don’t even know that he’s using. His social life is divided in two: The friends he gets high with and the friends he doesn’t.

Emotionally Kyle appears able to connect with others, he’s a deep person, someone you’d describe as spiritual. But a wall descends when it comes to getting high. He can be the best friend in the world, and many of his friends feel like they’re his best friend, but if his relationship with substances is threatened in any way, the relationship with the friend is sacrificed. Kyle wants a long-term, meaningful relationship, yearns for marriage and a family, but isn’t willing to give up his drug use.

This is a familiar story of addiction. There are other paths addiction takes, but Kyle’s is common. Kyle’s belief system is flawed and this keeps him using. Some of his flawed beliefs are:

  1. Getting high doesn’t interfere with my relationships
  2. Other people have a problem with me using substances, I don’t have a problem
  3. I don’t feel sad, fearful, or angry when I use substances and they keep me sane
  4. Getting high fuels my artistic creativity, I can’t create art without pot
  5. I can stop whenever I want, I’ve stopped many times, but the reason I didn’t stay off substances is because I never had any intention of stopping for good
  6. Maybe getting high impairs me in some ways, but I’m still emotionally and mentally together–it doesn’t affect me mentally or emotionally
  7. Drugs and alcohol aren’t affecting me physically, I won’t get sick
  8. My spiritual and religious beliefs are not impacted by getting high: I’m still able to have authentic spiritual experiences
  9. Any future love relationship won’t be impacted by getting high. I’m still able to be a good partner

Kyle needs to reflect on and begin a conversation about his belief system with a therapist or mentor.