Addiction Relapse and Stinking Thinking

addiction relapse and stinking thinking

The stinking thinking that goes along with the relapse process for people with alcohol or other drug dependency is the hallmark that signals there are problems that need to be faced but go unaddressed. There are five major ways this kind of warped, bent, or distorted thinking enters into a recovering person’s life that can quickly lead to a full-blown relapse.

The return of denial is the number one tell-tale sign that there are problems with a person’s recovery. Whenever a person rejects the idea that they need to deal with a person, place, thing, or situation that may be causing them problems, they are entering into denial. To try to avoid problems is a natural human reaction to them. But, for the recovering person, such avoidance can spell disaster. To not deal with something causing concern is to develop or deepen the stress that a person experiences in life, and it is stress that can lead to relapse behaviors. The basic trouble with denial is that, over time, the problems are still there and have possibly even gained strength.

A second area of concern for relapse thinking is corner cutting. A person can either chose to handle a problem with people, places, things, or situations head on, or try to avoid the problem by cutting corners to its solution. People with this mode of operation are those who will only go half way toward solving a problem. Instead of confronting someone with whom they have a growing problem, the person will become sarcastic or otherwise indirect in dealing with that person. They will go to some places that are dangerous – bars, parties, known drinking haunts – and not drink, but sit with a carbonated drink or juice and pretend that they are unaffected by the drinking going on around them. These people will keep that old shot glass or beer stein collection they started when they were drinking. And, they will intentionally get into situations where there are arguments and their resentment can flourish so they can drink the problem away. Instead of dealing with each of these problems directly, a corner-cutting person will try to get over or around them and take the easy way out.

The third area of stinking thinking has to do with defiance. Sometimes people whose recovery is slipping find they cannot stand being told what to do. It raises the hackles on their back to be told that they are not right and that another way is the right way to go. They resist taking advice and rebel against authority. At the root of this defiance with immaturity. Self-centered immaturity puts people at the center of their own lives and allows them to crave the attention that they think they deserve for “being right.” They often form resentment and anger about situations that are unjustified, and they blame others for their problems. This idea of defying everyone in order to get their own way is a common trait of people in the throes of relapse.

The defiance they feel is often tagged to grandiosity. Some people think they are immune to the ordinary laws of the universe that govern other mortals. They think of themselves as different, special, and deserving of out of the ordinary attention or consideration that is largely undeserved. Sometimes these folks rise to the level of contempt for other people and it interferes with their relationships in a markedly obvious way to everyone else but themselves. At the heart of this grandiosity is a paradox: Alcoholics and addicts can be grandiose while at the same time having a very strong sense of inferiority. They sometimes feel unworthy of the esteem others show them, so they artificially boost themselves up in order to feel that this esteem is justified.

Lip service is another way that stinking thinking creeps into the lives of recovering people on their way to full-blown relapse. People sometime mouth insincere statements in order to tell people what they think others want to hear rather than the real deal. The person may be superficially compliant while, underneath the situation, they are doing whatever they can to undermine the other person. People at this level are pretenders and can sometimes be very good at what they do to make other people think they are engaged when they are actually very detached from the relationship.

These five areas of stinking thinking cause a person to have a muddled way of approaching problem solving. This is a sign of relapse, not recovery. Clear thinkers are aware, honest, eager to learn, accept responsibility for their own recovery, and express humility in their daily lives. Avoiding this kind of negative thinking goes a long way toward improving the chances that a person can stay clean and sober.

Roger P Watts, PhD bio