Praise is one of the key recovery aids, as it helps cement the foundations for those in early recovery to move forwards. Addicts are aware of the problems that there own addictive behaviours are causing. They are aware that their behaviour is affecting themselves but also all the people who they love. This behaviour results in the addict feeling guilty, a failure and a belief that they are not capable or worthy of recognition for any positive steps that they make.
To further sustain this idea that they are not worthy of praise or recognition addicts often dismiss many of the positive things that they do and ironically use these positive steps to de-motivate themselves. They do this by dismissing positive steps as actions that they “should be able to do,” that “normal people do it everyday.”
This dismissive thinking makes sustainable change, changing towards a life without using their addictive behaviour less likely. To help the addict learn to accept themselves it is therefore important to use all the recovery aids available none more so than to use every opportunity to praise someone in addiction. They have low self esteem, and to restore it takes time and honest feedback; needing to be reminded and encouraged every time they make a good decision.
Praise is also important to build a working relationship with an addict. If you are keen to support an addict, then there will be times that you will have to assert your boundaries forcefully and also need to convey to an addict that what they have done is not ok. By offering praise at appropriate moments then the addict is able to better recognise that you are criticising the behaviour not the person. One way of looking at a relationship is like a bank account, there is a need to invest using praise, time, care and love before you can make take some of that investment back in the form of giving criticism and asserting boundaries, otherwise you will have no leverage to build in those boundaries and expectations.
Used consistently, the addict will recognise that you love them and care about them and that because of this you do not accept or accommodate a particular behaviour.
Addicts have such low self esteem that when they first experience praise they may seek to dismiss it or question motives for offering praise. It is important that when you give praise that it is honest, consistent and that you challenge any dismissing of your praise. For example if you praise someone for arriving on time, (if this is something that has become an issue), then they may reject it by saying “I said I would,” in an aggressive tone. Reply by saying something like “Thank you. It means a lot that you are here now, and I know that anything that could have delayed you, you addressed. It's great to see you here. More time to spend together.”
Praise is vital as a recovery aid but may initially feel very awkward, either because it is rejected or it is an alien way for you to communicate. The more you praise someone the easier it will be for you to see it and easier for them to hear it. You can praise for any positive change or to recognise that they have continued to do something which they once did not do. This can be for any decision no matter how big or small. Praising for getting up, washing, eating, anything.
Praise can also take the form of a complement, so praise could be offered because someone has changed their appearance, cooked a nice meal or done something different. A good expression to praise by complementing is “like the way you have…..” To demonstrate sincerity, build in a question so “like the way you have done your hair. Where did you get it done? When did you have it done? What brought about the change?
Recovery from addiction is hard work and built on growing self esteem. Self esteem is built on praise and personal recognition. Addicts have to be taught to accept praise, praise aids recovery and is fundamental to sustainable and long term change. Use praise all the time alongside the other recovery aids and recovery will have the foundations to grow from.
Book a free appointment today to discuss how therapy using a mix of CBT, recovery tools and individualised strategies can help you break the cycle of addiction. Call (+44) 0798 1974796. I work online via Skype and face to face from my therapy suite in Sheffield. Contact me at Dave@positive-hypnosis.info to move your recovery forward today.