3 Thoughts That Lead Straight to Substance Abuse

This article is by Kerry Nenn and published by rehabs.com


Gina had been sober for 30 days when she got an invitation to a birthday party. She worried alcohol might play a big part at this celebration, but she really wanted to go.

After arriving, Gina quickly realized her concerns were warranted. Seeing everyone else drinking, she thought: “I’ll just have one.” With this in mind, she grabbed a bottle of her favorite brew.

Several hours and several beers later, Gina passed out on someone’s bed. When she woke up the next morning, she had a vague recollection of her keys being taken and a suspicion that she’d slept with the stranger lying next to her.

Control Freak

Gina fell for one of the most common thought patterns that lead to poor decisions regarding substance use. These risky thoughts involve control issues and thoughts such as:

  • “I can be with people using and stay sober”
  • “I think I can control this”
  • “I won’t let it get out of hand this time”

When faced with these thoughts, we must counter them with alternative thinking to avoid going down the road of relapse or abuse. Try telling yourself:

  • “The risk is too great”
  • “When have I ever stopped at just a few?”
  • “Why would this be different than last time?”

Hang In There

Donna decided to quit using drugs on a Tuesday. By the weekend, she was suffering from major withdrawal. Feeling physically and emotionally ill, she told herself: “I can’t handle this craving. I have to use or it will just keep getting worse.” With this repeated thought running through her mind, she called her dealer. Within the hour, Donna was high. If she could’ve held out a few more hours, the pain would have mostly subsided and she would’ve been on her way to recovery.

Nope, I Can’t Cope

Like Gina, Donna succumbed to a thought pattern that led her straight to relapse. These thoughts center around underestimating your coping skills and they include:

  • “This is more than I can handle”
  • “This will only get worse if I don’t use”
  • “Resisting this craving is impossible”

Alternative thinking can counter these thoughts. Rather than believe these exaggerations, try:

  • “I can get through this a moment at a time”
  • “I can wait out an urge – relief is on its way”
  • “No cravings are impossible to resist”

Knowing Is Half the Battle

David finally admitted his substance abuse problem after years of denial. He knew he needed to quit. Every day, he woke up thinking, “This is going to be my first day of sobriety,” but he never made it through the day sober.

Something different came up each day that prompted him to get high. One day, his friend offered him some free pills. He told himself “They’re free. I can’t pass that up.” The next day, he thought “I may as well use one more time. It will help me be more resolved tomorrow to quit.” Trapped in this kind of thinking, David continued using.

David’s risky thinking differed from Gina and Donna’s, but had the same result. His rationalizing led to continued substance abuse. These types of thoughts include:

  • “It’s free. I can’t pass that up.”
  • “I will use eventually, so why miss out now?”
  • “If I use one more time, I will be even more determined to quit.”

To resist these deadly thoughts, we can counter with the following alternative thinking:

  • “Using will cost me much more than money.”
  • “I can do this one day at a time.”
  • “If I keep telling myself this, I may never quit.”

Fill Your Mind Alternatively

Filling our minds with these alternative thoughts is essential to combating risky thinking. Continuing in these negative thought patterns only leads to additional substance abuse, addiction or relapse. What thoughts can you change today to make a better choice?

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