Do you ever listen to sports radio after your favorite team has finished a game? If the team won, the commentators will likely be upbeat and full of praise. But if they lost—and if they have been losing for a while now—the tone will be completely different.
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The hosts of the show will bemoan a blown play or a late penalty or foul. They might question a substitution, the play-calling, the pace of play, and more. But the real criticism will start when one of the hosts says, “Let’s open up the phone lines.”
Many of the folks who call into sports radio shows seem to be of the opinion that they could coach (or even play) better than the team’s current leader (or struggling player). They have all sorts of opinions about where things went wrong, why they went wrong, and what it will take to make things better. They might suggest benching a player, changing defensive strategy, or even the firing of the head coach. Everybody’s an expert—and a critic—when it comes to their favorite sports team’s woes.
Inner Voices: Keeping Score
Seen a certain way, our lives are like one long sporting competition. We have wins and losses and long streaks during which everything seems to be going right…or wrong. And we have little commentators in our heads analyzing our every move—every setback and victory. Ideally, those inner voices are rooting us on.
But sometimes those inner voices are more like those folks who call in to sports radio shows during a losing streak. They tell you that you’re screwing everything up. They have opinions about where things went wrong and what it would take to fix them—but they might also be convinced you will never make the necessary changes.
Ongoing inner criticism can be particularly problematic if you are struggling with a substance use disorder. If the voice in your head is convinced you can’t beat your problem with drugs or alcohol, it might just seem easier to give up. But a better strategy would be to change the voice.
Long-Time Listener, First Time Caller
Sometimes you’ll hear someone call into a show who will explain that they are a loyal listener to the program but that this is their first time calling in. That person may have been inspired to call for the first time because they disagree with the ongoing narrative they hear from other callers. The first-time caller has heard all the negativity, and they have had all they can take. They’ve called in to offer a different perspective and to let those other callers know that maybe it would be okay—productive, even—to give their ongoing aggressive criticism a rest.
Think of this “long-time listener, first-time caller,” as an alternative to the loud, negative voices you tend to hear in your head. Your first-time caller may agree that you are facing some real challenges—and a substance use disorder certainly qualifies—but they might also be confident that you can overcome those challenges. Maybe not all at once. Maybe not right away. But your first-time caller can be confident that you will put in the work and get things moving in the right direction.
Turning Your Naysayer Into a Yay-Sayer
So, how can you shift the tone of the voice in your head so that it is cheering you on instead of tearing you down all of the time? The first step is recognizing that your inner voice—whether it is encouraging or discouraging you—is, in fact, you. It is not a third party (though you may find yourself fixating on negative things others have said to you); therefore, you have the power to change it. You get to decide what kind of caller to the sports show in your head you want to be.
It may not be as easy as hanging up on one caller and picking up a new line, however. You will need to support your inner voice in order for that voice to support you. You might take up mindfulness practice so that you are better able to focus on the present moment rather than reliving the past or worrying about the future and catastrophizing.
You might engage with daily affirmations which serve as a prompt to positive thinking. You might even name your positive and negative inner voices, so that you can remember to listen to “Bob” who is on your side rather than “Susie” who is not. Hang up on Susie and take more calls from Bob—and make sure you listen when Bob says you need to get help for your substance use disorder.
You and Bel Aire Recovery Center Can Be a Winning Team
When you are losing to a substance use disorder, you may believe there is simply no way to come back to win. But at Bel Aire Recovery Center, we know that is not true. We will be your coaches and your cheerleaders as you go through detox and rehab. And we’ll keep rooting for you as you begin your recovery journey as part of our commitment to a continuum of care. We believe you can overcome your substance use disorder. We will help you believe it, too.