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Addicted to Self Sabotage? Causes and Ways to Cope

Whether an individual struggles with substance abuse or not, all individuals are human beings, and have very similar characteristics and qualities. Not everybody self-regulates their emotions and copes using substances but we’re all addicted to something that takes some type of pain away. Self-sabotage might show up in your own life as patterns in a history of self-sabotage, whether it comes with finances, relationships, health, communication, or something else.


People experience the world through their own eyes and through their own perspective. There is no such thing as two people going through the same exact reality. A family of two parents and a child living in the same house, eating the same meals, and spending weekends together, will still not have the same reality because each person’s reality and their perspective is shaped by their unique experiences that they have had. Two people in sober living sitting on the same sober living couch might be going through two completely different experiences. 

There are some common causes that create a self sabotaging pattern of behavior, and we discuss some of them here.

A Poor Understanding of People

A poor understanding of people potentially leads to self-sabotage because it creates a false sense of reality and a false sense of security, that people are supposed to show up all the time, that people are perfect, when in reality human beings are flawed. When an individual puts too much of their hope and faith into a person and when that person doesn’t meet the image of whatever reality that they had expectations of, they are going to self-sabotage. In recovery, when someone you look up to, or have a lot of trust in, relapses for whatever reason, that may lead to a self sabotaging pattern of behavior.

Learning how to listen, process and think through what other people are saying and doing is a great first step to improve upon how to understand people better. A realistic understanding of people can avoid unnecessary expectations and disappointments.

Putting Blame on External Factors

Blaming people, places and things for reasons why someone does not have the world that they expect is a common trait in self saboteurs. While adverse childhood experiences are the cause of many self sabotaging behaviors, when an individual becomes an adult, the responsibility falls on them to heal from their past experience. Shifting the blame to people, places and things instead of taking responsibility for their own healing is a self sabotaging pattern of behavior. 

One way to turn around this perspective is by putting the blame and fault aside and recognizing that they are an adult now, and responsible for healing their own wounds.

Lack of Focus

Many people who were diagnosed with ADHD when younger, or those who have an emotional, psychological cloud over them due to substance use, can feel like they are not able to focus on the daily obligations of life. Beyond those kinds of situations, people with self sabotaging traits lack focus because their perspective of life is too broad and vague. Lack of focus leads to a waste of time and resources. 

One way to counteract their lack of focus is to do something that they love doing, and are passionate about. When an individual is able to focus intensely and get in the flow, it is usually because they are working on something they care about.

Lack of Information

Many people react adversely to situations when it is the lack of information, the lack of knowledge, the broadening, and the deepening of their knowledge base that could have potentially prevented the road of self-sabotage. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing about healing, recovery, support groups, addiction, mental illness, but making decisions based on that lack of information can be detrimental when making vital decisions and lead to self sabotaging their recovery process.

The best way to prevent self sabotage in this case is to obtain relevant information about recovery by going to the sources, the people with experience and knowledge, and learning from them.

Surrounded by Negative People

No individual is all good or bad. There are people that are positive in our lives right now and people that potentially could be negative in our lives right now. That doesn’t mean they’re good or bad – all it means is in this moment in time, the people you surround yourself with – are they helping and assisting you go in the direction of your goals, your dreams, your ambitions, what you’re trying to accomplish in life, or are they taking you away from it? If the answer is yes, they’re helping me, guiding me, supporting me, those are your people. And if they’re trying to pull you from this into another road that you’ve gone down in the past or don’t want to go to, they become negative at this point. The same people that might be negative right now might go through some life experiences, some challenges, some changes, some ups and downs, that they one day are on the same path as you and then they become positive people. 

A good way to reverse being surrounded by negative people is to “Stick with the winners,” as they often say in the 12-step community. Their winning attitude often appears in their presentation, their mood, in their language and their mindset. You could see it in their lives, you can see the fulfillment, if you tend to follow their footsteps, there is a high possibility you will get to where they’ve gotten to.

Negative people could also be toxic sometimes. The process of going through addiction of your loved one, your spouse, your child, your grandchild is very traumatic and draining – it drains your battery, drains your soul. So in this stage of your life it’s important to have positive people around you that recharge that battery. Toxic people, when you’re spending time with them, you’ll know they’re toxic because when you leave you feel drained, you feel they just zap the soul out of you, and maybe at some point in your life when you feel better, when you’re healed, when you’ve recovered, hanging out with some toxic people doesn’t necessarily impact you as much. You’ll still feel it but it won’t zap you all the way to zero. When we’re completely drained we make some bad decisions. Human beings make some bad decisions when they’re around toxic people for too long.

Take Responsibility for your own Recovery

Self sabotaging is a pattern of behavior that is self defeating, causing damage in many areas of life. Understanding the causes behind what may cause self sabotaging traits in individuals can help recognize and change those behaviors. Owning responsibility for your own recovery is the first step towards success. 

Are you or your loved one struggling with addiction or related issues? Reach out to Buckeye Recovery Network to help with your healing journey.

Today is going to be the best day of your life.

Kelsey Gearhart

Director of Business Development

Kelsey carries multiple years of experience working in the substance abuse and mental health treatment field. Her passion for this field comes from her personally knowing recovery from addiction.

Prior to Buckeye she held titles of Recovery Coach, Operations Director, and Admissions Director. Kelsey was brought on at Buckeye Recovery as the Director of Business Development. She has a passion for ensuring every individual gets the help that they need, and does so by developing relationships with other providers.

Kelsey also oversees our women’s sober living environments – The Chadwick House for Women. She is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and conducive environment for all women that walk through the doors of Chadwick.