Published On: February 27, 2024|Categories: Substance Abuse|

Addiction recovery is not something you pursue and experience with simplicity and ease. It is a long process of vulnerability and emotional and physical challenges. And it can be made even more difficult by sabotage – from ourselves and from those around us.

What is sabotage?

Sabotage has a few definitions, one of them being, “an act or process tending to hamper or hurt.” In addiction recovery, sabotage is when any person hampers or hurts the recovery process of themselves or another. 

Self-sabotage is a phrase commonly referred to in addiction recovery and implies that the one recovering is engaging in thought patterns or behaviors directly impeding their recovery progression.  

Sabotage from another is when anyone close to the recovering individual negatively involves themselves through habits like enabling or discouraging. They may have their own personal reasons for doing this, but it inevitably leads to struggle in recovery.

Am I self-sabotaging my recovery?

It can be difficult to identify whether or not you are self-sabotaging your recovery; certain signs are likely to present themselves in time, however, to clue you in. You may notice that your recovery is progressing slower than you’d like, and, with some self-reflection, you might realize that this is due to habits of self-sabotage. 

Self sabotage can look a little different for each person, but all will feel its negative effects on recovery.

Mishandling stress

Experiencing frequent episodes of chronic stress and doing little to mitigate or properly handle that stress can be a slippery slope back into old coping mechanisms. Stress itself is not the self-sabotaging action, but failing to properly deal with it is. 

Instead of engaging with the stress or letting it control your actions, try meditation, mindfulness, exercise, yoga, journaling or spending time in nature. Overcome the negative sensations of stress by actively engaging in relaxing activities when you sense stress and anxiety beginning to creep in. 

Entertaining perfectionism

It is okay to want a perfect recovery, but it isn’t very realistic to expect it. Addiction and its healing process is messy, with constant ups and downs, victories and setbacks. You may be sabotaging yourself if you are expecting to sail through recovery without a hint of relapse.

Perfectionism can introduce emotions like low-self esteem and discouragement, or worsen any pre-existing thoughts of this kind. Work against perfectionism by setting goals that are realistic, challenging the thoughts demanding perfection and applauding yourself for even the smallest of triumphs. 

Fostering negativity

During recovery you need to be as positive as possible – a task that is increasingly difficult the more you surround yourself with those who foster negative environments. Even the narrative of your own thoughts might lean further towards negativity than positivity. But this is not beneficial to recovery in any way.

Negativity can lead to self-doubt, to a belief that you don’t have what it takes to recover or to discouragement when times get tough. Positive behavior changes, like gratitude journaling and seeking out environments/people who promote positivity, is a crucial way to negate negative thoughts and begin rewriting the narrative in your mind.


Recovery is not something you can do alone and community is a huge part of any successful recovery process. But if you begin to withdraw from supportive family, friends and even the community established in treatment/group therapy sessions, your recovery may begin to suffer.

Do your best to avoid this form of self-sabotage by continuing to attend meetings and group sessions; strive to maintain relationships with family and friends even when you don’t feel motivated to do so; and communicate with them all when you feel like isolating – they can help by coming to you and reaching out while you work through it.

Are my loved ones sabotaging my recovery? 

Identifying how others may be sabotaging your recovery can sometimes be easier than pinpointing how you’re hurting yourself. 

Some signs of sabotage from loved ones include:

  • Enabling – Enabling addiction is done through actions which have good intentions (like providing money), but inevitably end up hurting the recovering individual (knowing that money is most likely going to be used for substances). Enabling does not support recovery, but subtly encourages continued unhealthy behavior;
  • Encouraging or downplaying – If you are trying to remain sober, those who downplay one drink or encourage you to attend events where your recovery may be risked do not have your best intentions in mind;
  • Bringing up history – If your family or friends constantly bring up stories about things you did while struggling with substance use, you may need to distance yourself from this unhealthy environment; seek out people who talk about your victories, not your failures; 
  • Preventing you from seeking help – If a friend or family member in any way prevents you from attending meetings or participating in recovery activities, you may need to put some distance between the two of you. 

In order to minimize the effects felt from sabotage from a loved one, do not be afraid to set healthy boundaries, make sure you keep open communication with your counselor and create some distance between yourself and unhealthy people if/when necessary.

Need additional support?

To get in touch with a treatment facility to help you address and handle sabotage, contact us at High Focus Centers by calling 866-204-7306 or by contacting us online to learn more. 

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