Those of us with compulsive habits or addictions often share certain deeply embedded and destructive assumptions.
These negative core beliefs are so uncomfortable and self-reinforcing that we set us up to look for relief much of the time.
Here they are:
1. “I’m a bad, unworthy person.”
This belief leads to shame and guilt and makes it hard for us to feel deserving of love. After finding some comfort in our empty habit (drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, etc.), we feel even more ashamed and this lie is reinforced.
2. “No one would love me as I am, or if we knew what I am doing.”
This motivates us to hide our habit and can create a double life with lots of guilt over our deception. Often very moral people can persist with habits that deeply violate their conscience. Even a pastor can be hiding a persistent infidelity habit, for example.
Ironically because the addict never shares this with anyone, there is no way for this belief to be exposed as false. This is one reason why secrecy about the habit is so destructive.
3. “No one else will ever meet my needs.”
The addicted person may often distrust that they can count on anyone to care for them. There is often good reason for this, based on past experience. Therefore, they can become self-sufficient and independent to a fault.
But this isolating approach to life can make it hard for us to be emotionally vulnerable and intimate with anyone. It often leaves us deeply lonely and closed to love, not to mention vulnerable to the false promises of drugs, alcohol, food, or compulsive behaviors to meet our needs for love and support without threat of rejection.
The favored substance or behavior releases dopamine and serotonin from the brain’s reward center more quickly and reliably than most healthier sources, so it is easy to see it as a real need. When tense, it relaxes. When numb, it enlivens.
4. “My habit is my most important need.”
Especially with society trumpeting at every turn that alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping and so on are the greatest sources of joy in the world, it is easy to understand how we can come to think that these things or activities are our most important need.
And a real need must be indulged, no matter what, we tell ourselves. So whatever it takes to meet this need can be justified.
These irrational beliefs support our irrational behavior. We don’t necessarily notice these assumptions; often they operate outside of our awareness.
You may notice these ideas and thoughts that come up with any unpleasant feelings you may have. It will take practice to catch them, like trying to catch a fly, but you can learn to notice them.
And you can begin to have experiences in recovery which cause you to reexamine and replace these beliefs with the empowering truth.
If you need help with behavioral addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, sexual or pornography addiction or relationships, do not hesitate to call The Center and talk to our caring Admissions team members.
Written by John R. Williams, MA LMHC, Mental Health Therapist for The Center • A Place of HOPE. John seeks to not only empower individuals to find peace and fulfillment, but also establish warm and strong relationships. Located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, The Center creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and more.