By Sandy Thompson

Anyone who has been on a journey of self -improvement knows there are both ups and downs as one travels toward the destination. It’s also common knowledge that what you put your energy toward you will become.

For example, let’s pretend you have a desire to improve your nutrition and add some exercise to your weekly routine. For the first few days, you work really hard to eat well and go for a few walks around the neighborhood. You are so excited about the changes you are making that you tell everyone — well, maybe not everyone, but at least your partner and your besties! You might even make it “Facebook official” by sharing your good news with your “friends” because you are so happy with yourself — but maybe also as a way to keep yourself accountable.

By the fourth day, you give into a craving for bread. You eat two warm, soft, delightful buns right out of the oven smothered with butter. You totally enjoy the buns and then about 30 minutes later start to tell yourself all kinds of horrible things because buns are not on the “approved list” of things to eat. Statements like, “I’m weak,” “I don’t have any willpower,” “I’m fat,” “I am never going to be at a healthy weight,” etc.

Some will be kind to themselves and stop that kind of negative self-talk within minutes. They know that the only way to move forward is to recognize the choices and behaviors for what they are and move toward better choices and positive results. I mean, everyone has a bad day or a bad few minutes, right?  

For others, those negative thoughts lead to days of self-ridicule, which then leads to more poor eating choices, which then leads to refusing to do the exercise (what’s the point, right?), and of course, by day five or six, they have totally derailed and are no longer just eating crappy food but are wallowing in foods that are high in fat, sodium, and sugar… yuk!

Family members of those with an addiction go through the same thoughts and behaviors. Many may have a “slip” and let their caring hearts and compassion for those they care about rule choices and behaviors. It might be something as small as doing a chore for someone who can clearly do the chore themselves but they do it just so it gets done the right way — ha! Or maybe it’s a bigger act in that they do or say something that enables the loved one who struggles with use — like not holding them accountable for drinking and putting themselves in a dangerous situation. Regardless, everyone has good days and bad days and we all need to just move forward.

Remember this: negative thoughts are like weeds in a flower garden. The more you allow your negative thoughts to grow, your garden will be taken over by weeds. Focus on positive, loving, and self-reassuring thoughts to allow your garden to flourish.

Sandy Thompson is a ND Licensed Addiction Counselor, Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery trained family recovery coach, and owner of Path to Pono, specializing in business consulting and family recovery coaching. She has a passion for helping others, dreams of one day living in a tropical climate and loves all German food.