For most of us, our inner voices are far from silent. Instead, they judge, they mock, they berate, and they push us – in ways that can be markedly unpleasant – especially as a recovering alcoholic. This “committee in your head” as it’s often called is an aspect of worry, one of anxiety, and one you’ve been trained into. In fact, for most of us, our inner judgement often mimics what we’ve heard others say about us – often in their angriest moments. In other cases, that inner committee is solely made up of your own inner voice.
Either way, the voice in your head will drive you, it will conflict with itself, and you will want dozens of different things – often all at once.
In early recovery, that’s often about a desire for sobriety and stability versus cravings, with mood swings and emotional ups and downs buffeting you about. It might seem like you have little or no control.
The good news is you can get in control of the committee in your head. You can balance your emotions. And you can make it through early recovery into long-term recovery. However, you may need help getting there.
Did you know that good habits and good daily patterns can build your self-confidence and sense of self, which in turn, automatically work to silence the voices in your head? Did you know that building yourself up physically and emotionally puts you in a better place to comfortably tell those voices to go away? For most of us, self-esteem is built through having purpose, through achieving things, and towards moving our life in a direction we associate with positivity and good. The more you invest in your life, the better you’ll feel about yourself.
You can start with that by setting small, achievable goals. Keep them small enough you can do them but large enough it doesn’t feel too easy. Then, stick to it. E.g., go walking at least four hours a week, hopefully split up over the full week. If you miss a day of 30 minutes, you can easily spread time out over the rest of the week or go for a longer walk – without really hurting your goal.
Sport and exercise, especially with teammates, can also help you to build self-confidence and a sense of identity. The same also applies for starting a skill such as playing guitar or pottery, where you start out badly and have to learn skills and improve. Sticking to it will allow you to rebuild your sense of self and your ego – so that you have that to face your “inner committee” of indecision. Just remember not to overwhelm yourself. Start out small, work slowly upwards, and never bite off more than you can chew.
Self-doubt and indecision can be a nightmare if you don’t understand your goals and how to get there. Sudden misunderstandings, emotional conflicts, and conflicting thoughts can make it easy to go off track. You can circumvent some of this by writing out clear goals for yourself – so you can always check and refer back to your motivations when you’re in doubt. Sitting down with a counselor or your therapist is a good call, because they can guide you on what is reasonable as an expectation.
What do clear goals look like?
Goals should be clear, actionable, and should have a motivation behind them. You can write out that motivation if your problems are often about cravings or self-doubt. E.g., “I will remind myself of X, Y, and Z positive things when I think negative thoughts about myself, because I would never talk to a friend in this fashion, and I want to be friends with myself”.
It’s important to write down your thoughts. Keeping a small journal on hand allows you to record what that committee is saying – which allows you to go back later and get better insight into why and where thoughts came from. This might be difficult at first, but if you write thoughts down, they become more real. You have a better frame with which to criticize and judge them, to see where they came from, and to see how often you think them. And, if you are going to therapy, you’ll have an easy reference for bringing problematic thoughts to your therapist, and in ways that don’t rely on remembering what it was you were thinking. That can be a great way to get insight into patterns, into triggers, and into yourself.
For example, if you write out a thought, and then look at what caused it, you’re already stepping back from the thought. That’s one of the most important steps in getting control.
There is never a reason to attempt to fix things or yourself alone. If you’re having trouble, ask for help. Counseling can be a great and even inexpensive way to tackle anything from intrusive thoughts to contradictory goals. Why? It can help you to figure out how you feel, why you feel that way, and what you actually want. Most importantly, it will give you an outlet to express yourself in a professional setting.
Counseling can be one-on-one or group and it can involve anything from addressing thoughts and emotions to setting goals and working towards them over the course of a program. It’s important to discuss your needs when setting the direction of the initial program. That often means discussing your problems and trying to figure out what you want to solve as a first step.
If you’re coming out of rehab or coming out of other mental healthcare, your counselor might be from that program. Otherwise, they can direct you to stronger solutions if it turns out you need behavioral therapy or other treatment to move forward.
Eventually, there’s no shame in struggling with your thoughts or with your mental health. Sometimes we all struggle and it’s very likely you have very good reasons for having formed these kinds of thought patterns. But you do not have to live with those thought patterns. And, you shouldn’t have to.