Can you trust your own judgment in addiction recovery?

Addiction recovery requires accomplishing a number of tasks, including:

  • build and maintain motivation
  • connect with others
  • identify and develop alternative coping methods
  • reduce resentment about changing
  • identify, understand and cope with craving
  • build a new, balanced life
  • lead a life that is purposeful, meaningful and reasonably happy
  • stay alert for problems and follow through all the way
To accomplish these tasks, you will need to make MANY decisions along the way. However, your judgment about your addictive behavior(s) has not been good. How could you trust yourself to make decisions about recovery?
You could put yourself in the hands of others (AA, a therapist, your higher power, etc.).  However, many are not willing to do this, yet still want recovery.
For these individuals, recovery is a process of discovery. You will need to think about new ways of being and behaving. You will try them out, first in imagination, and possibly in practice. Like a scientific researcher, you will need to determine which ideas are most promising and need to be tested first. If these early ideas are successful, you may not even need to try more! The whole process, however, will need to be guided by your own judgment.
Your self-doubt may be strong, especially if you think you are “out of control.” However, you still have capabilities and can still make good decisions (even if you also make some bad ones). You are able to identify these words and understand them. You have decided to continue reading, which keeps open the possibility you will learn something new and helpful. You are searching for information, and you realize you need it.  Half of solving any problem is recognizing it. You are not completely without judgment, resources or capabilities!
One of the common thinking errors is all-or-none thinking. If you have made some less-than-great decisions (and who hasn’t!) then it may seem sensible to conclude that your judgment is completely gone. However, your judgment in many (if not most) areas of life is fine. Your take this competence for granted, but it is nevertheless real. If your judgment is adequate in these areas, you can develop it in other areas also.
If my judgment is so good, why haven’t I overcome addiction already? Probably because you haven’t focused on it sufficiently. To overcome addiction involves facing up to the conflict of wanting the addiction but not wanting the consequences. Faced with this conflict, we often just hope it will go away.  There are always other problems you can pay attention to!   Even individuals with superlative judgment have difficulty prioritizing problems. You could wait, because your conflict might go away on its own, just as you wished. Changing jobs or neighborhoods, developing new relationships, or other life changes are often associated with addiction changes.
However, you can decide it’s time to face addiction problems, and stay focused on them until they are solved. You will need to follow that good decision with a few more good decisions. But you make decisions all day long, and must be fairly good at it or you wouldn’t still be here. Stay focused on the recovery decisions you need to make, learn from your mistakes, and make recovery happen!