Whether you’re an addict or the loved one of an addict, obsessive thinking has probably plagued you more than once.
Once your mind fixates on something or someone, whether it’s the next fix, how you’re going to hide your drug or alcohol addiction, what the addict is doing or not doing, money problems, legal problems, relationship problems, or problems at work, it can be so challenging to stop the patterns of obsessive thinking.
This is a common affliction in both addicts and their loved ones as it is part of the disease of addiction. Obsessive thinking can drive you crazy or at least to do or say some crazy things if left unchecked.
There is a way to exterminate those rats in your head! Read on for our favorite, tried-and-true nine tips and tricks to stop obsessing today!
What is Obsessive Thinking?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “OCD obsessions are repeated, persistent and unwanted thoughts, urges, or images that are intrusive and cause distress or anxiety.
You might try to ignore them or get rid of them by performing a compulsive behavior or ritual. These obsessions typically intrude when you’re trying to think of or do other things.”
There are lots of things you can obsess about in your daily life when you suffer from the disease of addiction.
The question to ask yourself is, “Is this fixation I have with _________ preventing me from working, relaxing, sleeping, connecting with my spouse, children, or friends, or sucking significant time or energy from me?”
If the answer is yes, you are most likely suffering from obsessive thinking.
What the Addict Obsesses About
For someone who suffers from substance abuse, obsessive thoughts about drugs or alcohol left unchecked are usually one of the first symptoms of relapse.
Or, before recovery, they obsessed about their next fix – where it was going to come from, when, how they were going to get the money to pay for it, and how they were going to hide or cover it up from loved ones, employers, etc.
An addict with some level of recovery may find themselves replacing their obsession with drugs or alcohol with a substitute addiction.
The most common substitutes are shopping, smoking, gambling, food, sex, pornography, gaming, and overworking.
Anything to fill up that massive internal hole left empty that the drugs or alcohol used to fill.
What the Loved One of an Addict Obsesses About
When there is active addiction in the home, loved ones tend to obsess about a lot of things such as counting drinks or pills or looking for drugs and paraphernalia and trying to find a way to get the addict to stop using and drinking.
They obsess about trying to keep up appearances, so no one will know there’s anything wrong.
They obsess about taking care of the addict and completely forget to care for themselves or any others in the household.
Once the addict or the loved one has achieved some level of recovery, the loved ones can still struggle with obsessive thinking about anything – from the placement of a dining chair to a perceived problem at work or anything else for that matter.
Often the loved one is so conditioned to obsess that once they or the addict start the recovery process, it is difficult to rewire the brain to stop seeking things or creating problems to have something to obsess about.
9 Tips and Tricks to Stop Obsessing
So, are you exhausted from the obsessive thinking and falling into compulsive behavior as a result?
If you could stop the rat race in your head, would you?
Well, good news! It is possible to stop or at least minimize obsessive thinking to a much more manageable state using the nine tips and tricks below:
Tip #1: Meditation- Slow Down Those Thoughts!
A consistent meditation practice results in an overall decrease in the thoughts per second that run through your mind. It’s like a sedative for the rat race up there.
If you’re caught in obsessive thinking, you may think it is impossible to quiet your mind or even attempt to sit quietly to meditate.
It may be challenging at first, but if you take baby steps, you can do it. Try meditating for 1 minute – just sit still with your eyes closed and try to notice your breath as you breathe deeply. That’s it.
Don’t judge whether you were able to concentrate on your breath, if you opened your eyes if your mind was racing. Just try this practice 1-3 times a day.
As you’re able, increase your time by 1 minute. Before you know it, you’ll be able to increase your time to 5, 10, even 20 minutes or more!
Some people benefit most from several short meditations throughout the day. For instance, stop three times per day for 5 minutes at a time.
These short breaks are just what you may need to slow down those thoughts, get yourself re-centered, and back into what is happening at the moment.
Regardless of the technique or type of meditation you choose, if you practice, you’ll notice a benefit over time.
Tip #2: Find Some Hobbies
Finding a hobby or hobbies that you enjoy is a great way to relax and redirect your mind onto something enjoyable.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to paint with watercolor. Perhaps you always wanted to learn how to fly an airplane.
Or perhaps you would enjoy building a model car, knitting, making pottery, or something else creative.
Some people even pick up an old hobby that they previously enjoyed as a kid and have found immense pleasure in doing so.
The point is, keep yourself busy in a way that is enjoyable, and you will find it easier to stop thinking about the object of your obsession.
Tip #3: Have Fun with Friends
Here again, keeping busy in a fun way is the name of the game to distract your mind from obsessing.
So, if you get together with friends, sitting around a table drinking coffee and discussing the object of your obsession is NOT what we are suggesting!
Go to a movie, go for a hike, sailing, skiing, attend a lecture of a topic that interests you, whatever it is, just do something fun and different, vastly different, from what you are obsessing about.
Tip #4: Learn a Language
Have you always wanted to learn French, Japanese or maybe some other language? Learning something new, particularly learning a language, can give your brain something constructive to think about.
Learning a language takes a lot of focus and practice. There is a vocabulary to memorize, verb conjugations, and accents to master.
Practicing can be a lot of fun too – with classmates, connecting with people via the internet who speak that language, etc.
It can also be part of a longer-term goal to plan a vacation to visit a country that speaks the language.
It may also be a way to add meaningful skills to your resume! There are a lot of benefits to using this tool to stop obsessing.
Tip #5: Pray for Help
Praying for help may seem like an obvious one to some, but oddly enough when your mind is caught up in obsessing, you may not realize you are doing it or that you need help to stop.
Sometimes though, the obsessive thoughts get so annoying or create enough havoc by preventing you from doing your daily tasks, that it is enough to wake you out of the stupor of this common symptom of addiction.
It is in these moments that prayer can be a powerful tool. Pray for help and the willingness to let go of the obsession.
Tip #6: Share about Your Obsessive Thoughts
You are only as sick as your secrets they like to say in the recovery rooms. Why? Because there is instant relief by a reported 50% or more on average just from sharing with a trusted person or group about your obsessive thoughts.
Share with other addicts, loved ones of addicts, or an addiction counselor or therapist. This is significantly different than sharing with friends who do not fully understand addiction and the obsessive thinking that accompanies it.
Sharing with others in recovery can provide you with reminders to use the other tools of recovery and on this list.
It can also provide you relief from any guilt or shame that may be festering around not being able to control the obsessive thoughts.
Tip #7: Ritualistic Journaling
What is the difference between journaling and ritualistic journaling? The former is traditional journaling where you write about whatever and keep it, possibly to revisit it at another time.
Ritualistic journaling is a process whereby you get the obsession out of your head and onto paper, tear it up or burn it, pray (usually the 11th step prayer), and then ask your Higher Power to be of service to another fellow in recovery.
When writing about your obsession, a stream of consciousness and even list making can be effective ways to do so.
Write out all your feelings, fears, frustrations, anger, all of it.
By symbolically and literally destroying the list, you have effectively dumped it all out of you.
The prayer and service help you refocus back into productivity and purpose.
Tip #8: Focus on your recovery program work
Whether you are working a 12-step focused or another type of addiction recovery program, you will have suggested guidelines to follow for your recovery that usually involve some type of work on your part.
When you find yourself obsessing about a person, place or thing, this is a perfect time to delve deep into your recovery work.
Refocusing on recovery will help you to stop obsessing and the more recovery you gain, the less obsessing you will fall prey to overall.
If you are in your 4th step, get back to answering those questions about yourself!
Sometimes obsessing can be an unconscious technique to avoid doing your recovery work.
Tip #9: Volunteer
Volunteering is a great way to stop obsessive thinking. Why? Because volunteering forces you to come out of yourself.
Obsessive thinking is very self-focused in that you are addictively filling a hole within that has become too uncomfortable to feel.
Volunteering takes you out of that unconscious act of self-pity and redirects you to helping others. And helping others – yep, you guessed it! – can fill that uncomfortable hole in a healthy, constructive way.
You will find you feel even better if you don’t tell anyone you did it.
Think about it; how well do you feel when you know you’ve done your best to help others in need without expecting anything in return?
Choose to Retrain Your Brain
The choice is a powerful weapon in addiction recovery and in minimizing the tendency toward obsessive thinking.
At any time, you can choose to be willing to stop obsessing and even to act out compulsively on those obsessive thoughts.
Notice we didn’t say self-will alone can cure this as it does not! Addiction is a disease by which if self-will were enough to put it in check, would by rights not even exist.
What works though is the willingness to work a program of recovery and allow a force greater than yourself to help you.
That willingness creates an opening for healing from obsessive thinking and compulsion to occur.
Try this exercise to practice the empowerment that comes with choice. When a negative or obsessive thought arises, simply notice it without judgment.
Now immediately replace it with three positive or productive thoughts.
Keep practicing this as much as possible combined with using the tips and tricks to stop obsessing that we have shared with you here.
Before you know it, you will find that you are experiencing less and less obsessive thinking and more and more of the peace, serenity, joy, and happiness that you deserve!
The talented and skilled professionals at our Recovery Center understand obsessive thinking and how it impacts on the recovery and treatment of addicts. They can help you with your recovery efforts and to understand how to deal with these habits.
If you need help with your recovery, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.