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A person’s mindset during treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) often directly impacts the outcome. For example, people who feel confident in their ability to manage sobriety have less risk of experiencing a relapse during early recovery. Self-confidence may make it easier for some people to develop and utilize essential coping skills. Some individuals find it helpful to reframe how they think about their recovery and diagnosis. Stoicism, or stoic philosophy, is one method of thinking people may use to focus on positive emotions and goals during recovery. 

According to BMC Medical Ethics, “Philosophers in ancient Greece would inquire, ‘What is the goal of a perfect life’. The Stoic would answer, ‘living consistently’. It means to live harmoniously because those who live in conflict are unhappy.” West Coast Recovery Centers encourages clients to accept their circumstances and focus on the positives during treatment for SUD. Establishing consistent routines and behaviors can help people live more harmoniously and reduce stress. 

What Is Stoic Philosophy?

Stoic philosophy is a specific way of looking at life and circumstances based on the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium. Many people use aspects of the stoic philosophy to manage health conditions and cope with stress. According to BMJ Open, “Stoicism is mentioned most frequently in studies related to pain . . . and coping strategies; indeed stoicism has been labelled a ‘coping strategy’ in more than one study.” 

The primary principles of stoicism people use to address symptoms or side effects of SUD include: 

  • Wisdom: Helps people problem-solve and overcome challenges in recovery 
  • Courage: Helps people remain accountable and withstand unexpected stressors
  • Mindfulness: Is the central state of stoicism and allows people to avoid self-judgment and stay in control
  • Temperance: Involves being modest, practicing self-control, and acting in moderation

People in treatment for substance abuse may find some of the principles of stoicism helpful in navigating recovery. 

The Importance of Self-Control

Chronic substance misuse has a profound effect on the mind and body. Often, the side effects of SUD include changes to a person’s impulse control. According to the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, “Numerous studies have found that SUD alters performance in humans across several independent behavioral measures of impulsivity, relating to cognitive outcomes such as [delay discounting], behavioral inhibition, and lapses of attention, thus demonstrating that impulsivity may result from drug use.” Self-control is an essential skill people develop during treatment to manage issues related to impulse control.

Stoicism helps some people gain greater self-control. However, it does not have the same impact on everyone. Each philosophy has advantages and disadvantages. For example, some individuals may use stoicism to avoid feeling strong emotions or to endure emotional pain without seeking help. In American society, men have been taught to stoically withstand emotional or physical distress. However, stoicism does not have to be harmful. Instead, people can choose to follow aspects of the philosophy promoting self-awareness, mindfulness, and healthy acceptance. 

How Can Stoic Philosophy Help People in Recovery?

Many people in recovery embrace stoic philosophy. Stoicism encourages people to look at their circumstances objectively. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “[W]hile many people would like life to be stable and would like to feel safe, the Stoic argument is that this longing should be abandoned, and instead people should see reality as it is; a process of constant flux.” Avoiding the truth of reality can cause people to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, denial, or anger. Being mindful of how things really are and the consequences of choices makes it easier for some people to remain accountable for their actions and navigate long-term sobriety. 

Stoicism helps people recover from SUD by doing the following: 

  • Encouraging people to find meaning in life beyond addictive behaviors 
  • Improving stress management 
  • Promoting self-discipline and self-accountability 
  • Helping people identify and redefine personal values 
  • Building resilience
  • Improving emotion regulation 

Stoicism focuses on reality and how a person thinks about their circumstances. Avoiding self-judgment is an essential part of the stoic philosophy. Self-judgment does not change circumstances and only causes emotional distress without addressing the underlying issues. Moving past self-judgment and instead accepting the realities of addiction helps people engage in recovery and build a healthier future. 

Using Stoic Philosophy to Maintain Sobriety

Stoic philosophy may help some individuals maintain sobriety after they transition out of treatment. Men often feel more comfortable adopting stoicism because society expects them to suppress and manage emotions. The clinical team can help men in recovery find a healthy balance between stoicism, emotion regulation, and self-expression. Individuals in recovery who choose to adopt a stoic approach often find it easier to engage in mindfulness-based therapeutic techniques. 

Individuals use stoicism to maintain sobriety by doing the following: 

  • Focusing on the present 
  • Prioritizing emotional control 
  • Being objective about their circumstances

Establishing healthier thought patterns and routines helps people maintain abstinence and emotional stability during aftercare and ongoing recovery. West Coast Recovery Centers uses evidence-based and alternative holistic therapies to guide clients through developing coping skills and a healthier approach to life. Stoicism can be helpful during early recovery for reducing the risk of relapse and improving self-control. 

Stoic philosophy is a way of thinking that encourages people to use self-control to manage complex, painful, or destructive emotions and behaviors. Individuals recovering from substance abuse often experience intrusive thoughts, compulsions, and cravings. Stoicism may help some people cope with these symptoms of SUD by providing them with a new way of thinking about their circumstances and life in general. Stoicism is often linked to the 12-Step philosophy and can help people regain control of their emotions. West Coast Recovery Centers encourages people to explore the beliefs, routines, and philosophies they find helpful in managing their condition. To learn more about our programs and services, call our office today at (760) 492-6509.

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