When you enter treatment for addiction, it’s normal to want to know if you’re doing things right. You’re putting a lot of time and effort into treatment, and you (as well as the people who care about you) hope it will improve your life. In times like these when you’re not sure where you stand, it can be tempting to look around and compare yourself to others. This is actually counterproductive for the following reasons.
Comparison reinforces “terminal uniqueness.”
“Terminal uniqueness” is the idea that you’re different from other people in recovery and therefore the principles of recovery don’t apply to you. Many people start out unsure whether they belong in treatment. They often look around and think, “I’m not nearly as bad as these people.” Many people surround themselves with friends who have worse substance use issues than their own so they can feel better about their own substance use. However, just because someone else seems to be worse doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem. Comparing yourself to others in this way is just another defense mechanism. It’s true we’re all different, but you shouldn’t use that as an excuse not to engage in treatment.
Comparison promotes negative thinking and moods.
Comparing yourself to others is a habit that promotes negative thinking habits and can even lead to depression and anxiety. Many studies support this. One study found that people who made more frequent social comparisons were more likely to feel envy, regret, guilt, and defensiveness, and were more likely to lie, blame others, and have unmet cravings. [https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2006-12888-004] These are clearly not feelings you want to have in recovery, especially since these feelings and behaviors are common in active addiction. Studies of social media and mental health have focused on comparison as a mechanism to explain why too much social media use often leads to depression and poor self-esteem. One study even found that comparisons make you feel worse, whether you feel you compare favorably or poorly to someone else. [https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/abs/10.1521/jscp.2014.33.8.701]
Comparisons give you a false indication of progress.
Addiction recovery is complex and everyone enters treatment with different needs. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so each person typically progresses in some areas of treatment faster than others. When you compare your own recovery to others’, you are working with a partial picture, at best. What’s more, you never really know what’s going on inside someone’s head. Someone else may seem to be doing well but really be suffering internally. You truly never know. Comparing yourself to others gives you no useful information and only makes you unhappy.
Comparisons promote competitive thinking.
Finally, comparisons promote competitive thinking when it’s actually a lot more useful to cooperate. Building a strong sober network is important for recovery because it creates a sense of belonging and support. You want to adopt the attitude that everyone in treatment and recovery with you is on the same team. A win for one of you is a win for all.
At Fort, we offer a safe, nurturing, and healing space for men and women to find recovery from the multifaceted disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring each client to face their challenges, discover the root of their problems, and reclaim their lives. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call us today at 817-381-9741 or contact us through our admissions page.