As humans, it’s natural for us to have a competitive nature. However, this is not always healthy, especially in the case of recovery. When you are healing from an addiction and the pain of the past, you may be feeling less confident which leads you to start comparing yourself and your recovery to that of others. However, it is vital for your recovery that you break this habit of comparison, and here’s why.
Comparisons cause negative thinking
When you compare yourself to someone else, this can cause a pattern of negative thinking, where you beat yourself up over not being as good or as successful as someone else. This kind of thinking can be destructive, and can lead to depression and anxiety. Comparison also causes negative feelings towards the person you are comparing yourself to. You may feel a sense of jealousy or loathing towards that person, and feeling that you will not be happy until you have something that they have.
Recovery is not a competition
Remember that everyone progresses at their own pace, and you are not weaker or stronger than another person based on the speed of your recovery. It’s important to recognize that everyone is wired differently, we all come from different backgrounds, and we all have different strengths and weaknesses. There is also no rule that says that everyone has to recover in the same way. Methods that are helpful for you might not be helpful for someone else and vice versa. Seeing someone else doing well in recovery should not be a loss for you, since you are all on the same team. When you stop comparing yourself to others, you will find that you can truly be happy for them when they accomplish their goals. It doesn’t do anyone any favors to create an environment of competition, where someone else’s success feels like a loss for you. We’re all in this together and we should be able to celebrate each other’s success in recovery.
You don't know their whole story
The reality is that comparisons are rarely accurate. You do not know the full stories of other people, you only catch a glimpse of what they decide to share with you. Especially in a world of social media, where people tend to only post a “highlight reel” of their lives, the people you are comparing yourself to may only be showing you their recovery successes, when they may be struggling internally more than they want you to believe. Beating yourself up over the mere perceptions you have of a person is not worth it. Keep in mind that you probably wouldn’t like it if someone made assumptions about you when they don’t really know you, so you should refrain from doing the same to others.
So what can you do about it? Here are a few simple things that we recommend you do in order to help break the cycle of comparison.
1. Make Connections
Building a strong sober community is an extremely important part of the recovery process. It allows you to see that these people are not against you, and they want to see you succeed. It also gives you the opportunity to be vulnerable with others, and in return they are more likely to be vulnerable with you. This allows you to share your struggles, learn from each other’s experiences, and motivate each other. Remember that you aren’t doing anyone any favors by pretending you have it all together - we are all human, and we all need support from others.
2. Start a gratitude journal
When you have adopted the pattern of negative thinking about yourself and your life, it’s vital that you reverse that right away. One way to do this is by writing down just 5 things you are grateful for every single day. It could be something as simple as the weather outside, a good conversation you had, or a delicious meal. By doing this, your brain will automatically start to pick out the positive things in your day, and give you a fresh perspective on life. You could also include things that you like about yourself, or things you accomplished throughout the day that you are proud of.
3. Celebrate the small victories
You should be proud of yourself when you reach a certain milestone, whether it’s being alcohol-free for a week or for a year. Or maybe you notice that you haven’t compared yourself to anyone today. Document these moments, take a picture or write it down so that you can track your progress. These achievements are a sign of growth, and they deserve to be recognized and celebrated, and one day you can look back and see how far you’ve come.
4. Focus on your personal growth
Instead of comparing yourself to others, just focus on your own journey. How can you be better than you were yesterday? Identify areas in your life that you need to work on, and put your energy into that. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can be useful as you try to recognize why you feel the need to compare yourself to others, and how you can come to appreciate yourself and the uniqueness of your recovery journey.
Breaking the destructive cycle of comparison can help you get on the right track for your recovery. Here at Aquila, we can provide you with a specifically designed treatment plan to give you an individualized, structured, science-based yet compassionate addiction recovery experience that you will work through with guidance from our experienced team. If you are looking for support during this time, reach out to us and we can help find a treatment plan that is best suited for you.