Soothing Self Talk

When you start down the road to recovery, it can be a scary time. You’re feeling new feelings all the time, and learning a little more each day who it is that you really are. And even after you’ve been in recovery for a while, you’ll still have bad days. Anxious moments, tough situations, triggers. There are a lot of ways to handle things when you feel this way. That’s what all of these safe coping strategies are all about. But there are a few things you can try right when you feel the bad creeping in that may help ward it off. I have combined two safe coping strategies for this week, because I feel they go hand in hand.

Talk yourself through it. Self talk helps in difficult times.

Soothing talk. Talk to yourself very gently (as if to a friend or small child).

I don’t mean that you have to go around talking out loud to yourself, that could be embarrassing, right? You can talk to yourself silently, in your head. Start by just calming yourself down. I usually let myself know, “You’re going to be ok. Everything will be ok.” In moments of panic, it can feel as if the sky is falling, but it’s not, and eventually, whatever it is you’re going through will be ok again.

Maybe you’re doubting your ability to do something. Self talk is great here. Let yourself know that you can do anything you put your mind to. Remind yourself you’ve got strengths and talents. And a little hard work goes a long way. Bolstering yourself in this way will raise your confidence level and help you feel better.

Learning to live with anxiety and depression can be difficult too. And perhaps you’ve been given medication to help you with it. But, the idea is to not have to take the medication forever. And learning how to use self talk to your advantage will help a lot with that.

Use self talk to comfort yourself during scary, difficult or confusing times. Use self talk to boost your confidence during a challenging time. Use self talk to remind yourself why you’re here, why you do what you do, that you matter and that you’re worth it.

Be kind to yourself when using self talk. For example, don’t use language like, “You’re such a wimp.” Don’t put yourself down or be too hard on yourself. It’s important to stay positive, and to be gentle and patient with yourself. Negativity will spread like wildfire to other aspects of your life. Stay positive, be positive, talk to yourself positively.

It’s a practice. You will learn over time to automatically begin soothing self talk when it’s needed. A good way to get started is to use a list of positive affirmations as part of your daily routine. This is a good idea anyway, it’s an amazing self-esteem booster. But, it’s a way to practice self talk. Use only those affirmations that you feel apply to you and resonate with you. It’s not important to use all of the affirmations on a list you find, just the ones that work for you. You can also come up with your own affirmations based on your goals and situation. Here are some good sites to get you started:

100 Positive Affirmations

How to Change Your Life and Your Mind by Using Affirmations

The Power of Affirmations

Make Your Self-Talk Work For You

Mayo Clinic-Stress Management-Positive Thinking


Distract Yourself

The Safe Coping Strategy I have chosen to share with you this week is:

Practice delay. If you feel you cannot prevent a self-destructive act, delay it as long as possible.

As I mentioned in one of my first posts, the “one day at a time” mentality most people recommend for recovery can sometimes be confusing or overwhelming early in recovery. I chose a couple of different ways of accomplishing the same thing.

For one, I follow “The 24 Hour Plan”. It’s basically the same thing as saying one day at a time, but somehow the explanation resonated with me much more. I may have had a drink yesterday, but yesterday is gone and I can’t do anything about it. I may even drink tomorrow, no one really knows what will happen tomorrow, nor why. But today. Today is here, and I have control over it. So if I only commit to not drinking today, it takes some of the pressure off. I’m not going to have a drink today. The rest is up to actions and stimuli and unforeseen events, and a tomorrow that none of us can really plan for.

The other thing I have tried is that I just take the next five minutes. I can handle five minutes. They’ll be gone in no time. As the coping strategy says, you can delay the thoughts of your self-destructive thoughts from becoming actions. I want a drink, but I’ll wait 5 minutes. I’ll wait a half hour. I’ll wait until tomorrow. And when that time comes, you tell yourself, I’ll wait 5 more minutes. One more day.

Eventually, the craving, the urge and the desire will subside, maybe even go away completely. And maybe go away completely for a long time.

If it was a life event or stressful moment that triggered the urge, while you’re waiting out your delayed actions, use the time to tackle the issue in a positive, productive manner. Help out a loved one who is in a tough place. Have a talk with your boss that did something to irritate you. Take a moment for yourself to get out and be alone and just breathe. If a situation is stressful, excuse yourself from it completely if you’re able. For serious life events, seek counseling or confide in a close friend. Allow yourself to recover or grieve. The event may have caused you to want to use, but if you can delay the use, approach your life problem with a positive attitude and the desire to solve the problem, you may just find at the end of the day, you don’t have that desire anymore.

Once in our recovery, we find our triggers and urges and cravings and desires tend to only be momentary. What in the past our addicted brains had tricked us into thinking we needed to use just to get by, our new conscious brain knows the urges will pass, the feelings will ebb, and we can be proud of ourselves for not using when we wanted to, and remaining on our path to sobriety. At the end of the day, the sense of accomplishment you will feel for having another sober date under your belt by far surpass any momentary high you would have had by giving in to the addiction.

You will have weak moments where you have been triggered and you feel like reaching for your drug of choice. But, practice this safe coping strategy. Delay it as long as possible. Talk yourself down, talk yourself out of it, and the feeling will pass.