Restorations Therapy Blog

3 Ways Comparison Undermines Your Recovery

by on Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Many people enter treatment full of doubts. They don’t know if they can succeed, they don’t know if they’re doing the right things, and they may not even be sure they want to be there. When you feel lost, or like you’re not sure what you’re doing, it’s normal to look around at what others are doing to try to orient yourself. If you want some indication about whether or not you will succeed in treatment, it might be tempting to compare your progress to others’. However, comparing yourself to others in treatment will only work against you for the following reasons.

Everyone is Different.

The biggest reason for not comparing yourself to others in treatment is that comparisons are totally meaningless. First, everyone’s situation is different. Some people have a long history of addiction, and others have a relatively short history. Some people have challenging dual-diagnoses, while others may have fairly straightforward substance use problems. There’s no way to know everyone else’s background and there’s no way to know their subjective level of difficulty. So thinking that someone is ahead of you or behind you in the recovery process ignores the fact that you all start from different places and have different needs in recovery. Second, you don’t really know what other people are experiencing. You basically know what they show you. Plenty of people who appear to have things together are struggling internally, so your assessment of others is likely wrong to begin with.

Recovery isn’t a Competition.

Strong social support is one of the most important elements of addiction recovery and one of the best predictors of success. That support begins during treatment. Not only do you bond with the people in your group, but you also learn healthier ways of interacting. However, if you think of recovery as a competition, then you will likely begin to see your companions as rivals. You may envy their apparent progress or feel superior after you reach a new milestone. It’s much better for you and everyone else if you adopt the mindset that you’re all on the same team and that a win for one of you is a win for all of you.

Comparison Leads to Terminal Uniqueness.

There’s a common problem known in 12-step circles as “terminal uniqueness,” which is the feeling that you’re not like everyone else here. Someone afflicted with terminal uniqueness is always comparing himself to the others in the group, looking for reasons why he is a special case. This is similar to the fundamental attribution error. The person with terminal uniqueness sees everyone else as “addicts” while his case is special because he had a rough childhood and he really only started drinking so much because work has been stressful, and so on. In reality, everyone has his or her own special blend of circumstances that led to substance use. The important thing is accept that you’re all really in the same boat and if you want life to change, you have to do the work.

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