February 2018

The Addict's Art of Self-Sabotage

By Scott Swanezy


Addiction can be seen as a form of self-sabotage.  During active addiction, we rely on temporary escapes through alcohol, drugs or behaviors to deal with life's issues, commonly leading to larger problems and more serious consequences. In other words, addiction is a self-destructive process that creates chaos, isolates us and negatively impacts eveyone caught in the wake of our disease.


Unfortunately, even after enjoying periods of recovery many addicts revert back to a psychological pattern of self-sabotage.  Why would we do this?  The reason is simple.  Although incredibly destructive, the act of self-sabotage continues to feel comfortable  to us, even in recovery.  During active addiction most of us felt that the negative consequences of self-sabotage were warranted.  In other words, we deserved the unhappiness, the isolation, the unemployment, the homelessness and whatever else.  In many instances, the fuel that previously powered active addiction is the same fuel that jump-starts a relapse. Instead of coping normally with life's problems, or life's pleasures, during recovery, self-sabotage begins to play its familiar soundtrack, "Maybe I don't deserve this happiness.  I'm not worth this."


When self-sabotage begins to manifest in the form of negative self-talk, it's important to intervene against this familiar train of thought, as it will eventually derail into self-sabotaging actions. The art of self-sabotage is also a product of egocentric, false thinking. Although we may consider the serious, irreparable damage of our actions in active addiction, these behaviors are commonly accompanied with false beliefs, "This job doesn't appreciate me.  My friends don't understand me.  My family is against me."  Self-sabotage is, in essence, a form of defiance against rational, correct thinking.


Through self-sabotage, we are somehow able to create a set of real-world consequences that seem to support our false beliefs. In recovery, for example, we may begin to feel like we're better, stronger and smarter than the process.  We might even convince ourselves that we're "different" than the other people in recovery leading us to relapse at the hands of that egocentric thinking.


An addict's ability to implement self-sabotage is much more than just the simple results of destructive behaviors during active addiction.  Before losing a job, family support or close friends, our self-sabotage was first formed in destructive thinking patterns. Since relapse is often a manifestation of this same mindset, those of us who are in recovery must understand the importance of working with a new canvas.


We must be willing to work with new, unfamiliar techniques and embrace a new art form from the beginning of the recovery process. If we truly want to succeed, we have to embrace the art form of self-awareness and leave the self-sabotage behind.


Scott Swanezy LCSW is an addiction and substance abuse counselor in Westchester County. He can be reached at 914-434-9945 and visit outofthefog.info for more information.




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