Avoid Cognitive Distortions (“Disqualifying the Positive” & “Jumping to Conclusions”)

What are cognitive distortions?  Cognitive distortions can be considered slips in our thinking that we all make at times. They are a derivative of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  The main premise behind them is that your thoughts have an enormous impact on your emotions and the way you are feeling.  So, if you are feeling terrible, there is a big chance that you are thinking in an unhelpful way.  These unhelpful thinking styles cause us to jump to incorrect conclusions, make false assumptions, and much more. 

Ten main cognitive distortions cause us to feel bad about ourselves, others, and situations/circumstances.  The cognitive distortions all or nothing” and “mental filtering” were introduced during our last blog post.  During this blog post, the cognitive distortions “disqualifying the positive”  and “jumping to conclusions” will be presented, along with a way to overcome and avoid using these unhealthy thinking styles. 

Disqualifying the positive refers to processing information in a biased way.  Specifically, seeing everything through a negative lens.  It is a mental process that transforms any positive into something to be considered as neutral or negative in your mind. When we see things through a lens that continues to disqualify the positive, the positive things don’t count because of some made-up rule in our minds.  Like, “I got lucky,” “anyone could do that,” and “that doesn’t count because (insert made-up rule).” 

For example, consider getting complimented for your performance at work. Rather than accepting that you did a good job, you would think “he/she are just saying that” or “yeah, I got lucky.”  Or you finally make it to 90 days sober and think, “it doesn’t really matter because anyone could do that.” Rather than feeling positive about yourself and your achievements, you end up feeling cynical and disappointed. 

There are two central strategies we can use to combat this unhelpful thinking.  First, we can practice accepting compliments and allowing ourselves to acknowledge our strengths.  We can do this by paying attention to our responses to positive information and practicing acknowledging positive aspects about ourselves and others.  Second, we can change our language.  For example, rather than saying, “I got lucky.”  You would say, “I am getting this compliment because I worked hard and earned it.” 

Jumping to conclusions typically includes one of two things.  Either “mind-reading” or “fortune-telling.”  When we “mind-read,” we make assumptions about how others perceive us.  When we “fortune-tell,” we anticipate the worst possible outcome and accept it immediately as fact.  In either case, we are making negative interpretations or predictions without any concrete evidence to support our conclusions.

For example, consider walking into a meeting and seeing two people having a private conversation.  If you are “mind-reading,” you would think, “they are definitely talking about me.”  An example of fortune-telling would be thinking that you are definitely going to get the Corona Virus because other people in the state have it.

To combat this unhealthy thinking style, we should consider all of the evidence that is available to us.  For example, what is the evidence you would have for knowing that those people were talking about you when you walked into your meeting?   What are the facts related to someone acquiring the Corona Virus?  Just because people are having a private conversation does not mean they are talking about me.  Just because people have the Corona Virus in my state does not mean I am going to get it.  Today you can avoid cognitive distortions (“disqualifying the positive” & “jumping to conclusions”)!

(Photo by Charles Deluvio)


Can I be more like water?  Flow-through life drifting over things and people who do not matter.
Can I quench another’s thirst?  Can I slow my flow when a person’s dam is about to burst?
Can I provide others refreshment when all they feel is resentment?
When it is time to grow, can I provide nourishment and let good intentions show?
When people are feeling weary, can I provide distraction or entertainment to help them see life’s intentions clearly?
All I can do is try and do these things like water.  In the end, it is all that will matter.

Water is a poem by Justin Heupel (Photo by Didin Emelu )

Unturned Tides

Tides unturned with lessons unlearned…  Life goes on, I remain strong. 
Bigger waves come; all I do is run. 
I’m still above water, but running has become harder. 
What to do now?  I’d like to swim but I don’t know how.
A storm is coming, and there is no running. 
I try to float, but there is no hope. 
A wave takes me under…  I begin to wonder… 
Who am I now?  Who stole my dreams, and how?
  The further I sink, the more I think… 
I’m almost to the bottom, my hopes are gone; somehow, I lost ’em.
  Ok, here we go…  The end of the show! 
Oh no, this must be a dream, wake up quick…  It’s not as bad as it seems! 
Ok ok! I’m awake and alive…  What a scary dream…  Things are never as bad as they seem!

Tired Thoughts is a poem by Justin Heupel (Photo by Ian Espinosa )

Tired Thoughts

My mind goes blank, but of what?! That is the debate!
For I still possess a yearning.  Inside me, it just keeps turning. 
At times I wait to see what can be done, but at others, it seems this awful feeling has won. 
At times I have great aspirations, yet they often seem to be quelled by dire situations.  As hard as I try, these opportunities so often seem to fly by. 
Even so, I do not consider this defeat, only another challenge I must meet! 
I must make it easier on myself, however, and in every action, be oh so clever.

(Tired Thoughts is a poem by Justin Heupel) (Photo by Rishabh Agarwal)

Stay out of legal trouble

Other than a few speeding tickets I got as a teenager, 100% of the legal trouble I have gotten in have involved alcohol.  Approximately 1.5 million drivers get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol each year in the United States.

As I mentioned in my story, I have gotten 3 operating while intoxicated violations.  I also got a few drunk and disorderly related tickets.  Being intoxicated altered my ability to make good decisions.  In fact, being intoxicated lead me to make downright stupid decisions.  I am extremely grateful that I had never hurt anyone when I was driving. Still, the reality is that it could have happened. 

If you have ever gotten into any legal trouble, you know that it can get to be overwhelming and expensive.  If you haven’t, I am very happy for you and would encourage you to do whatever it takes (including remaining sober) to keep it that way.  For me, it has cost me A LOT of money, time, freedom, and opportunity.  It has cost me tens of thousands of dollars.  I have had to spend quite a bit of time in courtrooms, jails, and other institutions.  I have lost my ability to drive multiple times, and being on probation has inhibited my ability to do certain things.I am extremely confident that as long as I remain sober, I can avoid all of those hassles related to legal trouble. 

If you have been in or are currently in legal trouble, I am sure that remaining sober will, at the very least, decrease the possibility of you getting in more trouble legally.  If you are fortunate enough to have avoided any type of legal trouble up to this point, I am fairly confident that you will eventually end up getting in some sort of legal trouble if you remain in active addiction.  In either case, why take the chance?  Today you can get through another day sober and avoid the potential of the negative legal consequences you face in active addiction! Today you can stay out of legal trouble!

(Photo by Najib Kalil)

Courage, Strength, Hope, Love, and Faith

My courage, my strength, I must go on, I must have faith! 
My love, my fear, both appreciated more with every tear!
  My mercy and intuition help me to evaluate every situation.
  My blood, my sweat, help me to pay off every debt! 
My joy my passion, I will always remember smiling and laughing!
  My life, my strife…  Nothing’s won without a fight!
  My lies my hate, not forgotten, never too late. 
My hope my creed, shown by every deed.
Hard work and dreams, sometimes nothing is as it seems.
  My doubt and questions; answered by hard life lessons. 
Every family member, every friend…  No matter what, I’ll be there for you until the end! No matter how hard or painful, lonely, or cruel…  Don’t give up; there is nothing we can’t do.
 LIVE, always for good, leave no moral left misunderstood!
 LOVE with all your heart; if you don’t give it your all, it’s not even worth the start! 
Life is not easy, no one ever said it was…  So live it for yourself, not for someone else. 
Try to be humble and kind, you never know in life what you will find… 
Do this not for me but for yourself…  To say; I have nothing else!

(Courage, Strength, Hope, Love, and Faith is a poem by Justin Heupel) (Photo by Javier Allegue Barros)


When you should be dead by rights and death is in your sights.
When you wake up from a coma and you still smell death’s aroma
When you can’t eat, and it hurts to speak, and comfort is all you seek.
When you can’t walk, and people can’t understand you when you talk.
You can’t drink, you can barely think, and every color looks pink.
When you lose fifty pounds and don’t understand certain sounds.
When you are weak, and your future looks bleak.
When you can barely lift a pound, and a wheelchair is your only way around.
When you can’t write, and people tear up at your sight.
When you don’t have control, and you feel all alone.
When your passion is taken, and you feel mistaken.
Then you see life in a different way, you thank God for every day.
Your thoughts grow deep, and you are thankful for sleep.
You are thankful for every meal and are grateful to be able to feel.
You think before you speak and wisdom is what you seek.
You try to make people smile and help them through any trial.
You are happy to be alive, and for great things, you strive.
You appreciate the little things in life, and that brings you less strife.
You appreciate your family more, and you don’t mind being a little sore.
Happy you will be, be patient, you will see!
If you let it, life will be great. Just wait! Do your best and God will take care of the rest.

(Life is a poem by Justin Heupel) (Photo by Greg Rakozy )

Patiently Probing Possibilities

Patience is a virtue, laziness, a sin.  We all harbor each within.
  It is said that those who work hard will be rewarded, and the efforts of the lazy will be thwarted. 
Myself?  I am trying to find that fine line, where strength and patience align.
  I work for things I love, at times patiently seeking guidance from above. 
Other times, however, I tend to think I am more clever and end up doing whatever. 
At this point, I tend to wonder, why is it that I fail?  For my coffin, is it just one more nail? 
It could be, but what if that’s not the case?  What if all of my inpatient decisions are just a waste, to be filed in the garbage and erased. 
  Where would that leave me, though?  Isn’t there something from my mistakes I can show? 
Maybe not, but from them, I can learn a lot!  So that is what I will try to do, after all, no one is perfect, even you!

(Patiently Probing Possibilities is a poem by Justin Heupel) (Photo by Holger Link )

Metaphorically speaking, use current events and circumstances as your muse.

What am I saying here?  Well…  What is the first thing you would think about if I asked you to tell me what is happening in the world today?  I would imagine that the majority of people would reference the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19).  How it has wreaked havoc on our everyday lives.  How it has devastated lives.  How no matter where we go, we are bound to hear someone talking about something related to it.  How everyone has an opinion about how it should be addressed.  Because of this current event, the circumstances in our lives have been impacted dramatically.

“Yeah, so what is this muse you speak of?” you might ask.  A muse is something that causes us to think deeply about the specific thing, person, situation, etc.…  A muse can also be a source of inspiration for an artist, author, poet, musician, etc…  So, in this instance, I found myself thinking deeply about our current events and circumstances and was inspired.  How can such a dreadful experience be inspiring?  Good question!  This is where the “metaphorically speaking” piece comes in.  As I was deep in thought about our current events and circumstances, I began to compare them to that of a person who suffers from issues with addiction.

“WHAT”?!..  Yes, hear me out.  Consider yourself (a person with addiction issues) as the world and your addiction as the Carona Virus.  Up until the addiction manifested, your life was manageable.  Maybe you had some bad breaks, but you were always able to find a way to get by.  Then, slowly you started experiencing some terrible circumstances.  You began feeling symptoms of withdrawal.  You started waking up and craving the source of your addiction.  You couldn’t go to sleep without indulging in the source of your addiction.  At this point, life is getting difficult, but it is still manageable.  Then, BOOM!  Something drastic happens, you lose your job, get arrested, lose custody of your children, etc… 

Now your addiction has wreaked havoc on your life. It is the main cause of your devastation.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, it is always on your mind.  You hear everyone telling you different things about your addiction.  Some people judge you.  Some people encourage you.  Others ignore you.  Almost everyone tells you that you need to quit.  Regardless, your addiction has impacted the circumstances of your life dramatically.  Now you can’t drive, see your children, or go to work. 

Now your addiction has wreaked havoc on your life. It is the main cause of your devastation.  Wherever you go, whatever you do, it is always on your mind.  You hear everyone telling you different things about your addiction.  Some people judge you.  Some people encourage you.  Others ignore you.  Almost everyone tells you that you need to quit.  Regardless, your addiction has impacted the circumstances of your life dramatically.  Now you can’t drive, see your children, or go to work. 

So where do you go from there?  Well, let’s go back to our metaphor.  What has the world done when it’s circumstances have been dramatically impacted?  Take action!  Do not wait for your addiction to ruin you.  Sure it has devastated you, but it hasn’t won yet!  Don’t ignore your symptoms! Seek help!  Avoid risky situations! Do research! Talk to people that have overcome similar issues!  Focus on remaining positive and keep hope and faith.  Just like the world, you have experienced adversity before.  Maybe not at this magnitude, but just like the world, you will not give up!  Today you can, metaphorically speaking, use current events and circumstances as your muse to remain sober!

(Photo by Markus Spiske )

Prove to others and more importantly yourself that you can remain sober!

The first thing that comes to my mind when I consider this statement is that “motivation comes from action.”  What that means is that when we start doing something, we are more apt to continue doing something.  Not only that, but everyone has to start somewhere.  A key component of remaining sober is the motivation to do so. The first day might be stressful, but remember that after you get that first day in, you are more apt to continue to stay sober.  If you would like to consider this from a scientific perspective, think of Newton’s first law of motion: “an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion.”  Take that first step! Once you have taken action and get your sobriety in motion, the motivation to continue to stay sober will begin to manifest and slowly but surely remain in motion.

The other thing I think of when I consider that statement is the motivation I get from proving others wrong and right.  Chances are (if your experience is anything like mine), you have made some choices that have affected others in negative ways.  Whether they believe you are serious about your recovery or not, how gratifying is it to either prove them wrong or make them proud by proving them right.    We have all heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words.”  What better way to prove yourself than by taking that step and getting through your day sober?!  Today you can remain sober! Today you can prove to others and more importantly yourself that you can!

(Photo by Nik)