When struggling with substance use disorder or alcoholism, the inner critic deters you from looking at yourself and reality with honesty.

The inner critic is not real and spreads falsehoods about your situation and other people. When drinking and using, we attempt to silence this inner critic. But when we wake up from a consequence and try to face reality again, this inner critic is loud and blaring.


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It’s hard to remain sober with the consequences we have created, or what we had done on our last spree. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that few alcoholics are honest with anyone because of the things they have done.

“Coming to his senses, he is revolted at certain episodes he vaguely remembers. These memories are a nightmare. He trembles to think someone might have observed him. As fast as he can, he pushes these memories far inside himself. He hopes they will never see the light of day. He is under constant fear and tension – that makes for more drinking.” Page 73 of the Big Book

Everyone has an inner critic, and it’s this voice that’s telling you things about yourself that are bad. It is loud and emotionally harmful. We would never purposefully talk to a stranger or a loved one this way.

Yet we addicts and alcoholics do it to ourselves constantly.

If you were driving down the road, and you had someone sitting shotgun that was talking to you the way you talk to yourself, you would not put up with it. Instead, you would pull over, get out of the car, open the door, pull them out of the car and leave them on the side of the road.

How Does Mindfulness Help with the Inner Critic?

Mindfulness gives you the opportunity to identify the inner critic and empowers you to leave this critic on the side of the road.

Mindfulness teaches you that you don’t have to listen to all these thoughts that are intrusive. It helps you see that most of these thoughts are negative. And almost all of them are not even true.

When we listen to these thoughts we are not living in reality.

When you start to get sober, your inner critic is loud with shame, guilt, and all these emotions around your addiction. Many of the stories that you’re telling yourself are not true but have been told since early childhood. With mindfulness training, we can say, “Hey, that’s my inner critic.”

Mindfulness can help people quiet the inner critic by making it something that’s an external thing, and it’s not running the show anymore. When you practice mindfulness, you learn to focus your attention on what you would like to focus your attention on.

The opposite of this is thinking about whatever comes up in your mind. The secret is that we do not control the thoughts that come up in our minds. They just happen. The mind has a mind of its own.

Thoughts are just thoughts. They’re not truths. Mindfulness gives you the ability to discern constructive thoughts from destructive thoughts.

Inner Critic and Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Often people come in for substance abuse treatment and they are ruled by their mind. They’re a prisoner of their own mind.

By the time they leave Renewal Lodge and practice mindfulness training, they understand what their mind is doing to them. They don’t have to listen to that thought and they can see and listen to thoughts that are more constructive and productive.

Mindfulness training and doing the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous allows our clients to find deeper healing. It gives them the ability to examine themselves and transform how they respond to life and their thoughts.

This blog is based on an interview with Renewal Lodge’s clinical director Marcos “Kito” Holtzman.

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