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Self Sabotage in Addiction and Recovery

What It Means -- How to Overcome It

Are you your worst enemy in the recovery process? Do you self-sabotage your sobriety and not even realize it?

If so, it is time to make sure you are not in the habit of self-sabotage or your recovery could be in danger. When you are addicted, the pattern of self-sabotage can be a repetitive cycle. You need to understand that addiction in itself is a type of self-sabotage that addicts have mastered. Rather than dealing with negative emotions and situations rationally, the addicts turn to alcohol and drugs as an easy escape from their problems, and this leads to a bigger issue altogether.

There are many factors that we blame for our addiction. We blame unhappy childhoods, peer pressure, bad therapies, etc., but what is the worst enemy of addiction recovery?

Most people are inclined to say that it is the alcohol or drug itself that is the major part of the addiction, but there is a more devious adversary, and that is YOU when you indulge in self-sabotage.


What Exactly is Self Sabotage?

Self-sabotage can take place in different situations, and it applies to various scenarios.

The basic idea is that self-sabotage is a damaging form of behavior that holds an individual back from their progress.  It can damage their relationships, delay or completely stop their recovery forward motion, and create diverging and destructive activities.

In some cases, this self-sabotage occurs simply because of carelessness or recklessness.  It could be due to a person’s confusion or their misunderstanding or underestimating the facts.

There are even some people who self-sabotage on purpose. This negative and destructive behavior might bring them the attention they want while bathing in self-pity, insecurity, or fear.

There are a lot of instances where self-sabotage can occur however the general motives remain the same. Those instances are when an individual is trying to damage some part of their life, particularly in certain aspects of life like emotional relationships, health, career, and finances, etc. Though most of us have heard of “self-sabotage” and a lot of us have an understanding of what it means, it is crucial to have a clear-cut idea of what it means when we talk of developing drug addiction or alcoholism.

First, understand the concept and what behavior to expect from a person who self-sabotages herself or himself in the addiction and recovery process.

The term “self-sabotage” means the deliberate damage, obstruction or destruction of different aspects of one’s life.

It has a similar meaning to the word self-damage. So, this involves people behaving in ways where they cause harm to themselves.

Ways You Can Self Sabotage

There are many ways in which you may self-sabotage yourself. Have a look at some of the common things a person can do. Check yourself and keep track of the things you find yourself doing and try to overcome them if you want to stop punishing or harming yourself.


Negative Thoughts

Addicts generally pile self-judgment or self-abuse on themselves on a regular basis, and such a kind of negative behavior is a way to sabotage your whole recovery process.

Thinking negatively or giving up and feeling like you will never recover from this difficult phase in your recovery can lead to depression and results in taking you way off track of your attempts at addiction recovery.

Unhealthy Lifestyle

An unhealthy lifestyle generally leads to unhealthy mindset, leading to negative thoughts, bad behavior, and depression. It is very important that, when you are in addiction recovery, you eat healthy and nutritious foods and exercise on a regular basis. Keeping a healthy diet and eating healthy foods will help you keep your behavior and thoughts positive.

Staying Isolated

Isolation feeds depression, stress, and loneliness, and that leads to relapse. It is therefore crucial that you reach out to your family and friends or some support groups to help you through addiction recovery.

Being lonely increases the likelihood that you will go back to the negative thoughts. And as most addicts know, the last thing that they want to do is to face the public around them. However, isolation only fuels loneliness and stress and increases the occurrence of the addictive behavior.

Rather than shutting ourselves away from others, it is important to get involved and take help from friends, family or support groups.

Refusing Help

Addicts generally withdraw into themselves and push away their family and friends, resulting in lack of an available support system in case something should go wrong in their life.

It is crucial to make family and friends an important part of your total recovery process. When you refuse to take help or reach out to others, you are setting up for failure.

Destructive Thoughts

It is imperative to break destructive behaviors and patterns that were part of the addiction. These thoughts can trigger relapse when not properly identified.


Almost every single person in the universe experiences stresses in some way or the other. But people who struggle with the problem of addiction also abnormally struggle with the problem of stress.

Understanding that complete recovery is a huge thing in itself, but it’s the only first step to restore balance in life.

Returning to your work, relations, finances can be truly stressful and for this, a lot of people, mainly in the early phases of recovery, resort to substance abuse and self-sabotage.


Self-pity magnifies and expands the problem. Thinking about “why this is happening to me” or “what did I do to deserve this” is pure self-pity. The problem with self-pity is that it robs you of all motivation and anticipation and leads to hopelessness, despair, and often leads to resentment.

Rather than taking any responsibility, self-pity then becomes a means to justify feeling bad about yourself and not taking responsibility any taking any positive action.

An individual, when under the spell of some addictive substance, can ruin their recovery and chances for success simply by giving in to the easy seduction of self-pity.

Post Treatment Self Sabotage

After coming out of rehab, a person should rebuild their life from the ground up. They have to cut the ties with those who are into substance abuse, avoid places they associate with abuse and ensure that they don’t get in situations that jeopardize their sobriety.

But many sabotage their recovery and continue to have contact with substance abusers and put themselves in questionable areas, placing their sobriety at risk.

There are obvious ways you can engage in the self-defeating behavior but there are less obvious ways as well:

  1. Self-pity, always feeling shame and guilt

  2. Beating yourself up for the errors that you have committed in the past

  3. Engaging in a kind of co-dependent attitude

  4. Not taking care of your health, not sleeping or eating properly, not meeting your personal needs

  5. Not addressing the mental health problems like anxiety or depression

So, any of these behaviors, when left unchecked, can result in relapse. But have you thought about why people sabotage themselves?


Knowing the Signs & How to Prevent Them

Sabotaging behavior should not derail your addiction recovery process. When such behavior comes up, it can be handled in a way that doesn’t destroy what you have been working towards. One of the biggest defenses against such a situation is the support you get.


Support from your family members, friends, counselors may be of great help to you in your recovery. People who care about you will be the first to point out the behavior that is not in your best interest.

This advice is not always easy to hear, but being open to feedback can greatly help you to recognize your self-sabotage behavior and will get you back on the right track.

Small steps

Daily inventory is another useful tool that helps you to identify sabotage behavior before it goes out of control.

It is generally these small decisions that can add up and make it unmanageable for you to control your life later on. Nipping such attitude in the bud can make a big difference.


One of the main keys to overcoming self-sabotage is to improve the level of belief in yourself. You can easily do so by developing self-compassion for yourself and using techniques like self-love, self-kindness, and meditation.

Working with a professional therapist can help you to realize the level of life you deserve. Educating and believing in yourself can get you out of any problem, and self-sabotage is one of them.

Zap Your Fears

Relax and imagine what it would be like to have what you wished for and to achieve your goals.

As you do this, write down the negative feelings and any fears or negative thoughts that you have. When you do imagine yourself getting back to normal, what thoughts generally come up?

Do you think of yourself indulging in boring workouts? Do you fear to get extra and unwanted attention from others? Do you think that your friends or family or spouse will make fun of you?

The key to eradicating self-sabotage lies in zapping the fears and unrealistic thoughts that you create in your mind.

So, as an addict, it is you who is your own worst enemy.

Staying sober will not be easy for you if you don’t give up your obsessive thoughts and behavior.


It is very important to surrender. You need to surrender not just to the idea that you have a problem of addiction, but you even need to surrender to the thought that you cannot fix it on your own and you will need some professional help.

Professional addiction therapists and counselors can help you come out of the self-sabotage thinking and behavior and lead you towards the recovery process.

Be Humble

Another important key to avoiding self-sabotage is to have a humble approach towards recovery. Being humble means that you need to develop right behavior and attitude when it comes to learning about addiction recovery and how it can be applied in your life.


Last, but not least, it is important that you fill your days with some meaningful activities and have a purpose in life. Time spent productively will help you to avoid the self-sabotage behaviors that create risk for your growth in the recovery process.

So, each time you make a decision, you step away from self-sabotage and self-harm. And as time moves on, your tolerance for such behavior grows small, and you become more comfortable in your sober life.

Getting Help

Self-sabotage, in addiction and recovery, will not only delay but could destroy the progress you are making.

Aggressive action is needed, and it might seem like psychological warfare. It is usually wise to enlist the aid of a trained professional to deal with this troubling and disruptive behavior.

If you, a friend, or a loved one, has identified self-sabotage in behavior while dealing with addiction problems, you can get in touch with the Hotline at your Recovery Center and discuss the problem and possible solutions.

The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment.  Call anytime.

Debi Silber - Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Leading health, mindset and lifestyle coach shares insights about how we become liberated when the pain of where we are exceeds the fear of the unknown.

She discusses how we get in the way of our efforts to improve our health, careers, romances, and other priorities — and shows how adopting a childlike openness can start the virtuous cycle of improvement.

If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.

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