Developing a Drug-Free Lifestyle by Eliminating Distorted Thinking

December 3, 2012 Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

When I look back on my active addiction, the biggest barrier to changing to a lifestyle of recovery was me. Years of self-abuse led to a pattern of negative thinking that was hard to overcome. Much of this negative thinking was centered on distorted thinking patterns that had been formed as a result of experiences I had growing up.

How Distorted Thinking Patterns Lead to Negative Behaviors

This distorted thinking resulted in a pattern of maladjusted behaviors. People pleasing, lying, and isolation were typical ways that I made my way through the world. These behaviors actually began before I even picked up the first drug. I do believe that for most addicts that addiction begins this way.

This distorted thinking became even more pronounced after I experienced my first psychotic episode and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. There were times when my perception of reality was terribly flawed. It was during these times that I was most vulnerable. Unable to discern truth from fact, I could not envision a life beyond my dual diagnosis.

The Breakthrough

It took many years of intensive therapy, hospitalizations, and self-introspection until I was able to come to the realization that I was, in many ways, my own worst enemy. For so long I had been unable to see how sick I really was. Finally, I became willing to surrender and allow the process of recovery to take hold. This was no easy task. I had to let go of the toxic people in my life and change how I looked at the world.

It was through this process that I also learned that how I perceived the world was reflected in my attitude. Whenever I looked at the world through a negative lens, I also would tend to have a pessimistic outlook. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

Even now, although I am fortunate to have been clean for nearly 25 years I still can fall prey to having a negative attitude. When this occurs, I have to check myself and perform the necessary adjustments to bring my attitude into a proper alignment. I do believe that the old cliché about looking at the glass half empty or half full can make a big difference in recovery.

So whether you are trying to get clean or even have been able to put a few 24 hours together, having a positive attitude can make a huge difference in how you are able to manage your recovery.

APA Reference
Shallowhorn, K. (2012, December 3). Developing a Drug-Free Lifestyle by Eliminating Distorted Thinking, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Karl Shallowhorn, MS, CASAC

December, 4 2012 at 2:02 pm

Today and most recently negative thoughts about myself are causing extreme emotional pain. I have been reliving past negative behaviors again and again. I have a few 24 hours clean and a strong spiritual awareness. I intellectually understand and know I am healing the deep wounds yet tonight was my first brief thought of suicide in a very long time. The guilt overcame me and the healthy parts kicked in. Yet the darkness still looms and the air still thick with the negative thoughts of self. Tonight I will allow the tears and pain and keep moving forward in this process. Although recovery and more importantly the healing of the deepest wounds is not easy its knowing others have felt the same and stayed clean through it that give me the light of hope when my thinking goes dark.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 5 2012 at 2:02 am

Heather - Yes, there is hope. Do know that pain is temporary and it is possible to be in a better place emotionally and spiritually. This too shall pass.

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