People can suffer as much from the things the fail to do as the things they do. This is certainly true for people who are recovering from an addiction. In order to maintain their sobriety and improve their life the individual will need to take regular action. Failure to take this action can mean that their sobriety is compromised, and they will be at risk of relapse back to addiction.
Procrastination can be defined as the act of replacing high priority actions with tasks of lower priority. It often occurs when people choose to concentrate on a task they enjoy rather than the task they should be doing.
People who procrastinate will usually have a justification for their failure to focus on their task such as:
* They believe that they are more effective when they leave things to the last minute. This type of person will claim to work better when they have an imminent deadline.
* The individual can actually make themselves believe that the task they are now want to do is more important than the task they should be doing. Such a person can even find the act of balancing their pencil off the side of their desk as being of the utmost importance.
* The person may avoid going to the location where the important task is to be performed. For example, the individual may take the day off from work.
* The individual will blame other people for their failure to get the task done. Those individuals who are demand resistant may believe that what is being expected is unfair so they rebel against it.
* The person might minimize the work needed for the task so that it no longer feels like they need to begin right away. This type of thinking could involve, “it will only take me a couple of minutes so I can leave this task until later”.
* Another justification for procrastination is that the person decides that they need more time to plan the activity. The longer they stay in the planning stage the longer they can delay having to take action.
* The person becomes forgetful when there is a task to be done, and they use this as an excuse for not having done the work.
* Some people will use humor as a means to justify their procrastination. By making a joke of their failure to get the work done it makes it seem less important.
* People will immerse themselves in another more desirable activity so that they lose track of time. They will then have the excuse that they forgot all about the more important task.
* The individual can trivialize the task they are meant to be doing. This means that their failure to do it no longer seems like such a big deal.
* Some people will point out the procrastination of other people to justify their own procrastination.
One reason for why people may procrastinate is that they are demand resistant. This reason for procrastination is described as, an unconscious chronic negative response to demands, real or perceived, internal or external. The individual who is demand resistant will automatically rebel against any expectation or demand they are faced with. One of the ways that they will do this is procrastinating. It is believed that people become demand resistant because of experiences in childhood. Children can react to the unreasonably high demands of their parents by learning to rebel, and they carry this tendency with them into adulthood. It affects their dealings with all authority figures, and the individual can also begin to rebel against their own expectations and demands. Demand resistant can be a real stumbling block in a person’s life because it means that they spend more time resisting things than they spend doing things.
In order for people to build a successful life away from alcohol and drugs they need to take action. Standing still or coasting in recovery can be dangerous – this is particularly true for people in early recovery. When people aren’t going forward into increased sobriety they tend to be regressing. If the individual does too much they will end up either relapsing or with a less than satisfactory life in recovery.
There are many reasons for why people will procrastinate in recovery including:
* In order to be successful the individual will need to face their demons and overcome these. This type of work is not always comfortable and the individual will try to deny it as long as possible.
* Recovering from an addiction involves a great deal of change. Fear of the unknown can mean that the person tries to delay making these needed changes.
* Those individuals who are naturally demand resistant may fight the recovery process all the way. This can mean that they only become prepared to take action after they’ve been backed into a corner and the cost of not taking action becomes too high for them.
* People can become complacent after they’ve achieved some success in recovery, so they no longer feel like they need to do further work. William Pollard once warned, the arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.
* Some people just become accustomed to waiting for situations to escalate before they become willing to do something. This means that the person’s life will tend to be much more difficult than it needs to be.
* It is possible for the individual to become so dependent on other people that they need direction before they will take any action. This is referred to as learned helplessness.
* Some people get caught up in negative thinking in recovery – this is often referred to as stinking thinking. When the individual is in this state of mind they might not see the point of taking action.
* The individual can be so arrogant that they overestimate their abilities. They downplay the work involved in a task and mistakenly believe that they will be able to complete it without any effort and preparation and at the last minute.
* Those individuals who are dealing with low self esteem will keep delaying tasks because of their fear of failure.
* Some people just have poor time management skills and this means that they put things off till the last moment. This type of procrastination is due to a knowledge deficit and it can be easily cured.
There are a number of dangers associated with procrastination in recovery including:
* There are some actions that the individual will need to take in order to stay sober. If the person puts off taking these actions they may be putting their recovery in jeopardy.
* It can be a means by which the individual sabotages their own success in recovery. They might do this because they are looking for a justification to relapse or they do not feel like they deserve a good life.
* If the individual is on the verge of relapse they must get help and support right away. Failure to do so is likely to mean that they are unable to stop the slide back into addiction.
* The individual will usually have already wasted many years of their life. By falling into the trap of procrastination they are putting further delays on their happiness.
* In order to achieve success the individual has to overcome the human tendency to procrastinate. Those individuals who fail to do this will never know real success.
* It is easy for people in recovery to go off track. If they delay returning to the right path they will be risking relapse.
There are things that people can do to overcome the tendency to procrastinate including:
* Learning time management skills. These allow the individual to make better use of their time.
* To do lists are effective at encouraging people to get things done. The individual learns to enjoy ticking things off their list and getting things done can have an element of competition with the person competing against themselves.
* Demand resistance is a habit that people have to work at in order to overcome. This means that they will have to keep forcing themselves to do things until not procrastinating becomes their new habit.
* If procrastination is having serious consequences in the person’s life then they will likely benefit from some type of therapy. This professional will be able to help the individual dig down to the root cause of the problem.
* There are groups such as Procrastinators Anonymous that offer advice and support for people who are dealing with this type of issue.
* Procrastinators will often subconsciously rebel against the idea I have to do it. It can help if they reframe the task as I want to do it – this technique can be particularly effective for those who are demand resistant.
* It can be helpful if the person just focuses on getting started on the project rather than on completing it. Once they get stuck into the work they will arrive at the finishing point without the need to worry about it too much.
* Another trick is to break large goals into smaller targets. This means that the individual will not be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead.