Getting From “I Can’t” to “I CAN!”

The Importance of Beliefs in Addiction Recovery
Dr. Philip Tate, author of Alcohol: How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did

I CAN“I can’t” may be the most debilitating belief you’re likely to have. Not the “I can’t” as in “I can’t jump to the moon,” but as in “I can’t succeed at doing what I want to do” or “I want to quit drinking, but I just can’t.”

The first is true because of physical reality. The others, though, usually aren’t.

What can lead you believe that you can’t? Look for beliefs such as, “I’m no good”, or “Because I have failed, I am a failure“. With these beliefs you can easily go on to think: “There is something especially wrong with me that makes it impossible for me to do what I want to do.” This goes beyond an accurate description of reality. This sort of unhelpful, unrealistic description is known as an irrational belief.

Eliminating this irrational belief is wise, for it clearly keeps you from achieving your goals and easily creates depression and contributes to your low sense of self-worth. In Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), we teach you to challenge your irrational beliefs, including the belief that you can’t.

It will help to recognize that this belief (“I can’t”) is absolutistic and unconditional. So, to state your belief clearly, it will be something like: “There is no condition whatsoever that will allow me to do this. I absolutely can’t do it.”

Challenge this belief by asking, “Is there any evidence my belief is true?” The answer is no!

Challenge this belief repeatedly for a while until it really sinks in that your belief is nonsense. You can begin to see that your failures are not created by some magically created entity of worthlessness inside yourself, but by natural events — events that you may be able to change through education and work and through other means that people use to change themselves.

Philip Tate. Ph.D., is author of the book titled Alcohol: How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did, which is included in SMART Recovery®’s Suggested Reading List. This article originally appeared in a previous issue of SMART Recovery® News & Views

“Discover the Power of Choice!” Learn more about disputing unhelpful beliefs and other tools for self-empowered recovery at SMART Recovery. .

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