Attitude Matters: How Changing It Benefits Your Recovery

Posted on March 19th, 2012
Posted in Articles

You know how the way you feel when you wake up seems to color your whole day? Well, when it comes to your attitude, or the way you portray your demeanor, it makes all the difference in the world when you’re in recovery.

How can this be so? Don’t we all have the right to feel a little grumpy or out-of-sorts from time to time? Certainly we’ve had reason enough, given all that we’ve gone through just to get where we are at this point in our now-sober lives.

While there’s no law against having whatever feelings come to mind, and we’re certainly not advocating that you try to be something you’re not, or force yourself to feel what you find impossible at any given time, there are some benefits to learning how to change your attitude so that it reflects how you really feel. That is, if you’re at all interested in making significant progress in your recovery.

The fact is that our attitude is more important to our recovery than we’ve probably ever given it credit for. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why attitude matters and dive into how changing it can benefit your recovery.

A Good Attitude Jumpstarts the Day

Getting a leg up on the day is something that everyone can relate to. Whether it’s the bubbly excitement of looking forward to a pleasurable activity or spending some quality time with loved ones or friends, that little smile that you find yourself waking up with helps you jumpstart your day.

There’s also no question that feeling jazzed as soon as you jump out of bed is a great way to prepare yourself for any and all of the recovery-oriented tasks and activities you’ve already got on your to-do list.

Motivation Comes Easier

Aren’t we all a little more motivated if we’re feeling positive about something, as opposed to dreading or hating what we have to do? If you’re down in the dumps because you consider yourself ill-prepared or not worthy of success, your attitude will obviously reflect this. Guess what that sour feeling does to your chances of getting anything worthwhile accomplished with respect to your recovery? You’ve got it: You’ll wind up doing not much and not realizing your goals any time soon.

If, on the other hand, you take the time to learn how to re-program your thoughts so that you welcome the day ahead, this slight change in your outlook can reap incredible rewards. Instead of being fearful of making an attempt at a step or task that you know you need to do for your recovery, you’ll be more motivated to at least begin to tackle it.

A Good Attitude Inspires You To Do More

It’s often said that nothing succeeds like success and when it comes to doing the hard work of recovery, the more successes we chalk up, the more inspired we are to do more. We are, in effect, challenging ourselves to achieve even greater goals. Indeed, we begin to see goals where we couldn’t before.

Some of this broadening of our horizon evolves from our venturing into unknown areas, while other opportunities arise from our tackling the most mundane tasks on our to-do list. You’ll never know which of your activities or undertakings will reveal a new area of interest unless and until you pursue all of your actions with the full focus and concentration you can bring to the effort.

Just keep in mind that when you’re feeling good about yourself and projecting this healthy attitude toward others, positive results are likely to ensue.

Getting Past the Past is Less Painful

Every person in recovery, no matter what their addiction or how long they were addicted, has something in their past that causes them pain. The memories may be stuffed in the back of their minds for fear that they’ll sabotage the present, but if they’re not dealt with in an appropriate way, the individual will never fully realize the benefits of healing.

The key here is to recognize once and for all that you cannot change the past. It’s dead and gone, despite the necessity of your need to acknowledge your responsibility for your past actions and to make amends where possible to those whom you’ve harmed. You can dredge up those painful memories or try to keep them buried, but if you don’t deal with them, your progress in recovery won’t be as swift or as effective.

You’ve undoubtedly seen some folks in the 12-step rooms who haven’t yet been able to shake off the past. They often seem like shadows of themselves, caught up in some unimaginable horror of the past that robs them of the energy and vitality to live in the present. Their pain shows on their faces and their actions in recovery are half-hearted, at best. Many will learn to overcome this barrier and will begin to make progress toward healing, but some will remain stuck for some time.

It’s far better, then, to recognize that you’ll need to tackle these painful memories of the past sooner than later, and then to adopt a healthy attitude toward your ability and efforts to get past the past and to move forward with your recovery.

Attitude Affects Others

Another point worth making is that your attitude has quite a bit of effect on others. While you may not even realize it, if you portray a sour demeanor in your everyday dealings with others, they cannot help but notice and may very well change the way they interact with you as a result.

In other words, if you’re a sourpuss or always complaining about your sorry lot in life, how you’ve been saddled with a raw deal, or can’t make any progress because the work of recovery is too difficult, only the most tough-skinned 12-step group members with many years of effective recovery under their belts will be likely to engage you in conversation. You can’t really blame someone for wanting to steer clear of negativity. After all, it’s positive results people in recovery are after, not being dragged down by someone else’s bad attitude.

In a similar way, how your family members, loved ones, close friends, co-workers, bosses and others relate to you will often depend, in large part, to the kind of attitude you project. Naturally, those closest to you may not have much choice than to learn how to deal with your ups and downs, but as key pillars of your support system, this interaction is so much easier and more beneficial to you if you adopt a more positive outlook and attitude.

Attitude Can Last Through the Day

Maybe you’ve tried to begin each day with a better attitude, only to find yourself turning sour later on. While it takes some practice to get the hang of, you can train yourself to maintain your positive attitude despite what challenges or difficulties you encounter during the course of the day.

Some of this may require some behavioral training or even counseling, but you can talk with your sponsor and others in the recovery rooms that seem to have figured this out. Any tips or techniques they can share may help you make progress in the all-important area of learning how to improve your attitude.

Once you hear some of these tips, don’t just write them off as something that could never work for you. You might consider trying one or two, or combining several into a strategy that you find easier to adopt.

The benefit of learning how to adjust your attitude, especially the one you wake up with first thing in the morning, is that you will gradually be able to extend this healthy way of looking at life and its challenges in recovery throughout the day. Every hour that you are able to see things in a healthier way is one step closer to being able to control your attitude.

In the Case of a Setback, Attitude Really Matters

Suppose things don’t go as planned. Suppose you suffer a setback, either minor or major. The kind of attitude you have as you face these situations makes a tremendous difference in your ability to push forward, to get past the obstacle or roadblock or tense situation and continue to make progress in your recovery.

And we all want that, don’t we? It isn’t what happens that can derail our recovery, but how we react to it, the lengths to which we will go to overcome it, and our attitude in carrying out our action plans.

In short, in the case of a setback, attitude really matters.

Attitude Affects Your Health

Did you know that the way you look at life and others can have an effect on your health? This may come as a surprise to some, but it really shouldn’t. If you have a negative outlook on life, you’re not inclined to do much in the way of taking care of yourself. You may neglect to eat properly, fail to get sufficient sleep and do little in the way of physical exercise. Feeling down on yourself and viewing your prospects in recovery as dim, you’re also more likely to skip meetings, only half-heartedly attempt the Twelve Steps, or give up altogether.

In the process of feeling on the low side, your health deteriorates right along with your recovery chances. This isn’t always the case, to be true, but it happens often enough that there is some merit to it. There is also the very real danger that you’ll begin to see returning to your addictive ways as an easier path to take. After all, you may think, you know what to expect there, you’re not going to get any better, so you may as well do what you know.

If you find your thoughts veering into this risky territory, it’s time to take action to forestall it. Talk with your sponsor. Get more counseling. Make some serious changes to get your attitude back on track so that you can resume your progress in recovery.

Success or Even More Success: Attitude Paves the Way

Do you want to be a success in whatever goals you set for yourself in recovery? As many old-timers in recovery with years of sobriety under their belts will tell you, you just have to keep on going and believe that you can make it. Your attitude is one of the key factors in helping make your dreams and goals a reality.

If you don’t believe this, just ask someone you trust and admire who’s demonstrated remarkable resiliency and achieved success in areas that have required diligence, persistence and a good deal of work. Maybe one or more of those same areas are ones that you’ve had trouble with. Are there any highly-motivated, hugely successful in their recovery accomplishments 12-step members that go around with a bad attitude? Not very likely.

Help yourself pave the way toward being able to achieve the goals and dreams you want for yourself. Change your attitude and see how much easier your life in sobriety can become. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to work, and work hard, but your positive attitude will make it seem easier and more worthwhile.

How to Change Your Attitude

If the preceding has convinced you that attitude matters, the next logical question is how do you go about changing it? There are several ways that you can go about it. Just choose the one that works best for you. This isn’t a test, so there aren’t any wrong answers. And these are just suggestions. Feel free to add them to your recovery toolkit as well as others you may discover.

  • Decide to change. Before you can make any changes, you first have to decide you want to change. This applies to changing your attitude just as it applies to making any other important life changes. Remember when you decided that rehab was something you wanted and needed to do? That decision led to your taking action and going into treatment. It’s no different with attitude. Decision precedes attitude change.
  • Seek help from others. No, you won’t have all the answers, nor are you expected to. In order to get started working on changing your attitude, seek advice and recommendations from others you trust. This list includes your 12-step sponsor, your therapist, your doctor, minister or clergyman, loved ones and family members, even close friends. Those who know you best will be inclined to help you out any way they can, but don’t discount the valuable advice and counsel you get from professionals.
  • Learn all you can about changing your attitude. Don’t overlook the many books, journals, periodicals and online sites that discuss how to change your attitude. Some of what you’ll find is a compilation of feel-good statements, but there are many jewels also available. Keep in mind that it only needs to work for you to be effective. Besides, reading about how a change of attitude can help change your life is a pretty healthy way to spend some free time.
  • Give yourself time to change. As in all things related to recovery, change doesn’t occur overnight. It takes time to learn how to view life through a different lens, to stop being so self-critical and self-defeating. Allow yourself sufficient time to gradually make a change in your attitude. This isn’t a race, so there’s no time limit. But you’ll start to see significant results once you adopt a healthier and positive outlook on life, so get started today.

In Summation

You only go around once in life, so make every second count. That is, unless you believe in reincarnation, and even then your successive lives have a lot to do with how you live them. For the rest of us, however, the key to being happy and productive in recovery begins with your attitude.

As famed coach Lou Holz said, "Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."

Attitude is how you treat others. It’s how you look at life, respond to challenges, succeed or fail. Attitude affects your relationships, your health. It becomes your personal trademark, creates experiences for you and for others. Attitude is also contagious.

Bottom line: Attitude is everything, in recovery and in life itself.

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