toxic positivity

How Toxic Positivity Can Derail Recovery

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So many things can trigger a relapse for those in recovery, but did you know there is a form of positive thinking that can derail sobriety? We’re talking about toxic positivity, which may be a term you haven’t heard before, but getting to know the signs and symptoms can be crucial to maintaining sobriety and your recovery. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing–at least when talking about toxic positivity.

What Is Toxic Positivity?

Positive thinking is generally a good thing unless you take it to an extreme. Toxic positivity is the idea that everyone should be happy and joyful, and you deny any kind of negative emotion that may surface. If it sounds like it should be a good thing, think again. Life is not perfect and toxic positivity is not the solution to your challenges.

Is the “Pink Cloud” Toxic?

A perfect example of this is the notorious “pink cloud” of recovery. This is usually characterized by people who are so happy in recovery that they may feel sobriety is easy and everything is just rosy in their life. Perhaps it is–at the moment. You’re going to have challenges in life, whether you’re in recovery or not. Celebrating your successes is important, but remember that there is a reality you will have to deal with. That involves negative emotions or challenges, and simply denying their existence doesn’t solve your problems. It can add problems to your life when you ignore them and let them get out of control.

When Others Have Toxic Positivity

If you’re in recovery, you likely have many people in your social circle who are also in recovery. If they are suffering from toxic positivity, they may be a hindrance to your recovery. Why? Because they are more likely to dismiss your problems than be supportive. They may be living in a bubble that protects them from anything they perceive as negative, but once again, that’s just not reality. 

When someone dismisses the emotional impact of problems and challenges in your life, they can create a sense of shame in you if you’re having difficulties or make you feel guilty for any negative feelings you have. No one wants to feel that someone has brushed off negative emotions or experiences in your life. As long as someone is in a state of toxic positivity, you need to avoid them until they come back down to reality. (It most likely will be sooner than later).

When You Have Toxic Positivity

So you’ve gone into rehabilitation, and you’re living in the pink cloud of sobriety. You’re not going to be a “Negative Nancy.” Life is wonderful, and you want to share your newfound positivity with everyone. But then you may suddenly notice that people inside and outside of recovery start to avoid you, and you aren’t sure why.

You may have become that person who uses toxic positivity on others. (Hint: it isn’t going to go over well with many friends and family). Just as you can experience shame or guilt when someone is relentlessly positive to you, you may be putting those feelings onto others. Even more troubling, you may be in such denial of the challenges you’re facing in recovery that you push them aside. Instead of dealing with a problem directly and clearing it up, you may be burying it, and the problem may be growing. It may even grow to become a barrier to your sobriety if you continue to suppress it.

Toxic Positive Phrases Versus Healthy Positive Phrases

Phrases like “It is what it is” and “Que sera” don’t make your problems magically disappear. Deep down, you know that; you just may need a reminder. Other common phrases used in toxic positivity include statements like “Don’t worry, be happy!” The current rage is T-shirts with the saying “Positive vibes only!”

Try replacing these phrases with more healthy and realistic ones, which are also more supportive. Try saying things like “I’m here for you” or “I know this is hard, and I’m here if you need me.” Acknowledging someone else’s pain or suffering is important to them and is part of the process of learning to cope with hardships. It should go without saying, but if you say it, you need to mean it and follow through if necessary. Nobody needs empty promises of support no matter what they’re going through at the moment. Be the friend you would want for yourself.

Positivity may seem like a good idea, but it can do more damage than good when taken to an extreme. Whether you are giving it out or on the receiving end, it’s not a healthy coping mechanism. Everlast Recovery Centers has seen many people enter the “pink cloud” of sobriety, and we understand how to deal with the problem of toxic positivity. We treat substance abuse disorders and mental issues that often can co-exist with them and standalone mental disorders. Our Riverside, California facility provides a homelike setting where you can recover and learn the skills needed to maintain a sober lifestyle. Through counseling and alternative therapies, such as yoga and art therapy, you learn to develop skills to manage the challenges in your life without toxic positivity. Not only do we provide detoxification and rehabilitation, but we also provide aftercare to help with that transition back into your life. Call us today at (866) 338-6925. We can help.

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