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Overcome Cues for Anti-Recovery

Chapter 10: Overcome Cues for Anti–Recovery

Section 3: SEA's Tools for Recovery Lifestyle 
Self-Esteem Seekers Anonymous -

The SEA's Program of Recovery
By James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Cues for Non–Recovery


What are cues for non‑recovery?

Cues for non‑recovery include: 

  • Suggestions you receive that encourage you to back off from your efforts to recover from low self‑esteem.
  • Messages you receive from sources outside of yourself to try or to continue to use behaviors which in themselves are not bad, but for you are unhealthy.
  • Internal feelings or ideas you experience which encourage you to act in an unhealthy way.
  • Your habitual ways of acting which automatically stimulate your desire for unhealthy behaviors.
  • Rationalizations and excuses why the unhealthy behaviors should or must continue.
  • The stimuli which result in unhealthy behavioral responses.
  • The pressures you feel to act or believe in a certain way which are unhealthy for you.
  • The propaganda you receive which makes light of or ignores the negative consequences of unhealthy behaviors.
  • The signs and symbols which stimulate you to act or believe in an unhealthy way.
  • The images portrayed in our society which give you confusing or mixed messages about what is unhealthy or not.


How can you recognize and avoid these cues for non‑recovery?

You are being affected by the cues for non‑recovery if you experience the following symptoms. Write done which of these symptoms you are currently experiencing.

  • Lack of commitment to change your current lifestyle
  • Lack of motivation to begin or to continue the efforts needed to change your unhealthy lifestyle
  • Depression over the difficulty, slowness, and effort needed for the required changes in recovery
  • Boredom over the repetitious monotony of the efforts required to achieve recovery
  • Denial that there is any other change needed in order to gain recovery
  • Discouragement over the requirements needed to create a new, recovered lifestyle
  • Anger over the sacrifices, alterations, and deprivation initially required to change your lifestyle
  • Suspicion over the motives and level of concern of the helpers and professionals involved in assisting you to change your lifestyle
  • Overwhelmed by the ongoing vigilance and effort needed to sustain the energy for recovery
  • Resentful since you feel singled out over others for this change and resentful that others in your life don't also have to make these changes along with you

What are the sources of cues for non‑recovery?

Write down which of the following are sources of cues for non-recovery for you:


Emotional Status: the emotions you experience are often cues which lead to unhealthy compulsive or impulsive behaviors such as eating, drinking, gambling, shopping, drug use, sexual excess, etc.


Irrational Belief System: the system of rationalizations, excuses, denial or irrational beliefs, out of which you operate in order to counter the belief that there are better, healthier ways to bring your life into balance for recovery. This is especially true when the healthier behavior requires time, effort, sacrifice, and energy on your part.


Peer Pressure: you are often confronted with pressure overt and covert not to continue the pursuit of a healthy recovery balance in your life by other people or peers. Your peers intentionally or unintentionally seek to sabotage your efforts to change because they are often consciously or unconsciously threatened by the changes in you and how it will affect them directly. This is the opposite of positive social support.


Habitual Ways of Acting and Believing: the unhealthy habits which you acquired in life are often so deeply ingrained that you act with no conscious forethought to the negative consequences of such action.


Advertisement: the proliferation of magazine, newspaper, radio, TV, billboards, handbills, junk mail advertisements which bombard our society are a source of prompts and cues for you to act in an unhealthy way for yourself.


Overabundance of Choices: in a prosperous society, you can be overwhelmed by the number and variety of convenient resources which stand ready to contribute intentionally or unintentionally to your unhealthy lifestyle, e.g., number of fast food restaurants open 18 hours a day, number of bars and lounges open 18 hours a day, convenient corner stores open 24 hours a day, the rise of the suburban malls, etc.


Sense of Prosperity: when you are struggling for physical survival for food, clothing and shelter, you are less likely to overindulge in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. (Some compulsive behaviors such as alcoholism, drug abuse and gambling often reduce a person from a state of prosperity to a state of subsistence and result in a reduction of the sense of prosperity.)


Propaganda: novels, short stories, radio and TV shows, movies, magazine articles are often filled with stories which seem to elevate or canonize unhealthy lifestyles for you to emulate and model after. This is often done unintentionally. Often the intent is to show the negative or degrading side of an unhealthy lifestyle with the opposite impact resulting.


Conspicuous Consumption: in our consumer‑oriented society you are fully encouraged to overconsume with no negative consequences implied. Such consumption advocates are “all you can eat buffets,'' “happy hour 2 for 1,'' “1/2 price sales,'' “outlet or off price malls or shopping centers,'' “state lotteries,'' “a must have one in every home,'' etc.


Value System: as a child you had a belief or value system which was handed over to you by your family, peer group, schools and community. Oftentimes these values are supportive of an unhealthy lifestyle. Because the values are so deeply ingrained in you, they are difficult to change.

What are some messages given you by the cues for non‑recovery?

The following are some examples of the messages given you by the sources of cues for non‑recovery. Write down the ones which are true for you as cues which dismantle your motivation in your recovery efforts.


Emotional status

  • You're too depressed to continue on with all these new changes for recovery.
  • You need to nurture yourself more in this time of stress and need to forget these changes.
  • You're too overwhelmed right now with your own problems to deal with changing your lifestyle.
  • You feel so bad; it must be all these changes you are making in your life.
  • You're hurting and alone and no one cares about you so why should you change?


Irrational belief system

  • I am healthy just the way I am.
  • I have nothing that requires any change.
  • I don't trust anyone who questions my reasons for doing things.
  • People just want me to change so they can control me.


Peer pressure

  • You are just fine the way you are.
  • Why are you spending so much money in that program to change when you should be able to do it on your own?
  • You make me feel uncomfortable now that you've changed your behaviors.
  • You are being too hard on yourself. Lighten up and be good to yourself this once.


Habitual ways of acting and believing

  • You always have a big spread on Thanksgiving and Christmas and greet the New Year by getting drunk.
  • You never go to any game without a cooler full of beer and a big picnic hamper.
  • You always shop until you drop the day after Thanksgiving and on Labor Day.
  • You always put out lots of food and drink when company comes over.



  • Win a million!
  • Be part of the Pepsi generation!
  • Be a Marlboro man!
  • So get up and on your way to MacDonalds!
  • Regardless of your credit rating, apply for our secured credit card.


Overabundance of choices

  • Don't deny yourselves.
  • We make it easy for you to shop.
  • If you don't have time to fix a full meal, stop by and we'll take care of you.
  • Fast foods, take out or sit in.


Sense of prosperity

  • What else are you going to do with your money?
  • Money is to be spent.
  • Don't let your money burn a hole in your pocket.
  • Enjoy the rich bounty of our land.



  • It doesn't make any difference what you do in life as long as you have fun.
  • The rich and famous overindulge themselves and you should too.
  • There is no better time to announce a new secured credit card than during the holiday shopping craze.
  • Live the life of the powerful and you'll live a full life.


Conspicuous consumption

  • When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.
  • The only way to be happy is to overindulge in food and drink.
  • It's not gambling if it's for a good cause.
  • You aren't in the “in crowd'' unless you have one of these in your home.


Value system

  • Never waste food. Eat everything given to you.
  • All doctors are inherently evil people who are just out for money.
  • Exercise is a waste of time.
  • A balanced diet is too difficult to plan and it doesn't taste good.

What can you do to lessen the impact of cues for non‑recovery?

To lessen the impact of the cues for non‑recovery, you can do the following. Write down which of these suggestions you are willing to do to lessen the impact of cues for non-recovery which are coming your way.

  • Use thought‑stopping techniques to stop thinking about the cues.
  • Practice stress‑reduction techniques.
  • Replace with alternative activities when the cues are more active.
  • Visualize being successful in the recovered lifestyle and dwell on this visualization.
  • Avoid the sources of the unhealthy cues.
  • Give the cues less power in your life by committing more energy to the new changes being made.
  • Use positive self‑talk which encourages you to continue on with the new changes you are making in your life.
  • Use positive affirmations of who you are, what you can and what you will accomplish in you new, recovered lifestyle.
  • Use pictures or images of yourself in your old, unhealthy lifestyle as a reminder of what you no longer want to return to.
  • Become very busy with healthy behaviors such as exercise and stress reduction activities so as to not have enough time to dwell on the cues


NOTE: For a look at other cues for non‑recovery, read the chapter on Handling Irritations in Tools for Anger Work‑Out by James J. Messina, Ph.D.