Updated: Mar 29
I am back on track, after a short reprieve, and ready to discuss the cognitive distortions I have enacted in my life throughout my addiction. In my first cognitive distortion blog, I wrote about filtering. Filtering is when we tend to focus on only the negative aspects of our lives, even when there are positive aspects occurring. I used filtering almost exclusively before giving up my addictions. Today, I am going to discuss the idea of confirmation bias and how it applies to addiction. To be clear, confirmation bias is not generally categorized as a cognitive distortion, but I cannot help but see it as one based on the definition of cognitive distortions. I feel compelled to include it because it was something I did on a regular basis. It is also directly related to something else I talk a lot about, core beliefs. With this in mind, I will talk about how I have used confirmation bias to not only support my drinking habits but also to reaffirm my already present negative core beliefs.
Let's start by defining the idea of confirmation bias. The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories (dictionary.com). On some level, I think confirmation bias is natural. We want to believe the things we believe are true. Who doesn't? The problem occurs when we want our beliefs to be true to such a degree we ignore information contrary to our existing beliefs. At this point, we are not affording ourselves any opportunity to learn or grow. We are simply forcing ourselves to remain in a perpetual state of stagnation. In order to move forward and grow, we have to allow ourselves to see opposing sides, viewpoints, and beliefs. Otherwise, we might as well live our lives out in a cave, isolated from change.
I could stop drinking whenever I wanted; I just did not want to
Where this plays a particularly troubling role is when we use confirmation bias to support negative core beliefs we have developed over time. Once we hold a negative core belief such as, I am unworthy, then we will go out of our way to find evidence to support our existing belief. Even though conflicting evidence is available to us, we will disregard it, much like filtering, and only focus on the information supporting our core belief. Confirmation bias and core beliefs are two different ideas but they are very similar too. As long as we are only seeking information on one side of a belief, we are using confirmation bias.
When I was actively drinking, I truly believed I did not have a problem with alcohol. My family's history, on the other hand, suggested I held a strong proclivity for alcoholism. Nevertheless, nobody could have ever told me I too may be an alcoholic. For years, my go-to belief was I could stop drinking whenever I wanted; I just did not want to. I believed this in my deepest core. There was nothing in my thought processes or beliefs suggesting I had even a slight problem with alcohol. I knew it like I knew I could run a mile at any given time. Even if I was out of shape, I could still get it done. Same with drinking. Even if I didn't like it, I could quit drinking any time I wanted. I am fairly certain many of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about.
There was no way alcohol was involved, so it had to be depression
When we hold strong internal beliefs,