Is a ‘Scarcity Mentality’ Stopping You from Staying Sober?

The way you view the world can have a direct impact on your ability to stay sober. If you tend toward the negative view of things, it can be harder to choose the positive coping mechanisms that can do so much to help you avoid relapse. On the other hand, a tendency toward a brighter view of yourself and your place in the world can help to keep you stay on track with your recovery.

Stephen Covey refers to the tendency to hold a negative perspective as having a “scarcity mentality” as opposed to an “abundance mentality” in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In general, this often means:

  • Feeling as if you are always the victim, being a bully, or feeling disconnected from others rather than feeling present and in control of what is happening to your life
  • Clenching your jaw, stiffening your shoulders, and limiting your breath rather than standing up straight and relaxed while breathing deeply and feeling solid and aware
  • Pulling all the energy and focus to yourself and your perceived problems in personal conversations or when in a group, exuding a sense of powerlessness, anger, frustration, fear, and impatience rather than feeling empowered and energetic, and inspiring the people you engage with
  • Feeling as if you do not have a choice or focusing heavily on what is not working rather than being flexible and looking at things from different angles to discern what can be gained from the situation or how best to solve problems
Is a ‘Scarcity Mentality’ Stopping You from Staying Sober?

The feeling that there is a scarcity of resources or that it is necessary to compete for everything even when there is plenty to go around is fed by addiction. The perceived need for more of the drug of choice never goes away, and the mental and physical illness that occurs when a person in addiction is without that substance is so severe that the fear of “running dry” looms large.

In recovery, this scarcity mentality is not automatically replaced by a mindset of abundance. It takes awareness and work to make this shift. It is not only possible, but it is also an excellent way to improve your experience in recovery.

Your Perspective Matters

  • Resiliency: According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the ability to “bounce back” after a stressful event, hardship, or unexpected crisis is far more efficient among those who maintain a positive view, or an abundance mentality.
  • Learning: Your focus can impact your ability to be open to and learn new ideas and concepts. Not only does this affect your ability to problem solve at home and at work, it can also support or detract from your ability to absorb new concepts and coping mechanisms in recovery. If, for example, you are dead set on the notion that you are not “that kind of person” when it comes to certain kinds of therapies and lifestyle changes, you limit your resources and the paths that can help you to heal and grow.
  • Stress: Higher cortisol levels and an increased behaviorally stressed response when a scarcity mentality is exhibited have been demonstrated in a number of studies. By comparison, with an abundance mentality, stress levels are lower, and when a crisis arises, it is far easier to assess the situation and react appropriately rather than potentially worsening the situation with a negative response.
  • Immune system response: While maintaining a positive attitude is no substitute for medical care during an illness, a study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found that having a positive attitude can help you to feel better faster – if for no other reason than you have the hope you need to make positive lifestyle choices like getting good sleep, eating healthfully, taking your medication as prescribed, and following up with your doctor.
  • Success: When you have a positive outlook on life, you have the perseverance and persistence it takes to do the work, address challenges, and avoid quitting no matter what comes along; this is true whether you want to be successful at work, in attaining your personal goals, or in recovery.


How to Develop an Abundance Mentality

So, how do you go about living a life that is defined by an abundance mentality in recovery? Here are just a few things you can do:

  • Practicing mindfulness can help you to become more aware of your thoughts, your patterns, your emotions, and how your words and actions impact others. When you are more awake and aware, you are able to identify problem areas and make changes accordingly.
  • Practicing gratefulness. When you are focused on all the good things in your life rather than on the problems you are facing, you are living in abundance rather than scarcity.
  • Expand your view. It is easy to believe that there is only one solution to a problem, but that usually is not the case. Instead of believing that there is no way to fix an issue you are having, consider the issue from multiple angles – and with different outcomes – and find one that works that does not involve drinking or using drugs.
  • Assume you know nothing. When you are first introduced to a subject, you are open to any possibility. Your mind is flexible. When considering how to handle something, do not assume any expertise even if you are an expert or have been through it before. In fact, don’t assume anything. Instead, pretend you are a novice, and go back to the beginning to review how to handle the situation.

Are you living with a scarcity mentality or an abundance mentality?

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Recovery First is located in Hollywood, Florida, which is easily accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Our small groups means you get more one-on-one support and make stronger connections with the community. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Florida's Atlantic coast or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.