How to Let Go of Comparisons in Recovery

We’ve all heard that comparison is a thief of joy. In recovery, comparing ourselves to others has the potential to rob us of much more than happiness. While we all have a tendency to see how we’re measuring up to other people in our lives, the need to compare can venture into dangerous territory. Comparisons are unfair, generally inaccurate, and can lead us into a dangerous headspace that may lead to relapse.

Even though we know that there isn’t much to be gained by comparing ourselves to others, it can be a really hard habit to break. Learning how to let go of comparisons in recovery can strengthen your recovery and allow you to fully embrace your unique journey.

The Dangers of Comparison

Comparison can creep up in a variety of ways throughout your recovery. Early on, you may find yourself thinking, or saying, things like, “I’m not that bad of an alcoholic – I only drank beer,” or, “I never used a needle, so I’m still ok.” Using comparison’s in this way allows you to minimize the severity of your use and feeds the denial that drives active use. For some, this line of thinking will keep them from seeking life-saving treatment until the consequences are very severe. The truth is substance use disorders are progressive. They worsen over timeand all of the “I’ve never’s” can easily become a reality, given enough time. Additionally, using one substance over another doesn’t make you any less dependent.  

Another form of comparison in recovery occurs when we compare our progress, or quality of life, to someone else’s. This type of comparing can leave us feeling insecure, fearful, resentful, and inadequate. Each of those feeling has the potential to trigger relapse and cause a decline in your overall mental health.

Breaking Free of Comparison

Learning how to let go of comparisons in recovery takes some effort, but with practice it will get easier. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Cut Down on Social Media

Many studies have shown that social media use results in a reduction of self-esteem and has a negative impact on mental health1. Ultimately, social media is the highlight reel of our lives – not the entire picture. Reduce the amount of time you spend on social media. When you do find yourself scrolling the feed, be sure to remind yourself that what you see online isn’t always reality. Beating yourself up or judging someone’s life based on their posts is not worth it. Instead, put your energy into building stronger connections with supportive people in your life.

Practice Gratitude

In a lot of ways, gratitude is a cure-all. When it comes to comparison, practicing gratitude is a great way to bring the focus back to the things that are going well in your life. Start out by writing down five things you’re grateful for each day. Doing this will help you shift your mindset and make it easier to refrain from comparisons in the future. Be sure to include your accomplishments, things you like about yourself, or any other milestones you reach. You deserve to be proud of your accomplishments, regardless of how they compare to someone else’s. 

Focus on Your Goals

If you find yourself focused too heavily on comparing your life to others, draw your attention back towards your own personal growth. Finding inspiration in someone’s accomplishments isn’t a bad thing, as long as we’re channeling that energy productively into our own lives. Identify areas of your life that you would like to improve and make a plan to reach those goals.

Remember Recovery is not a Competition

Everyone’s journey in recovery is unique and each person will progress at their own pace. Recovery is a cooperative process that relies heavily on support from professionals and peers. Your journey may look different but that doesn’t mean that your recovery is stronger, or weaker, than anyone else’s. Seeing other’s doing well or achieving their goals, should not be a loss for you. Recovery is a cooperative process built on a foundation of identification and support from the people around us. Learn to appreciate your own success and the successes of other’s. Take time to celebrate other’s and lift them up when they need it.  

It’s time to start appreciating yourself…

Use these tips to start combating the habit of comparison and strengthening your recovery. Instead of going down the path of comparison, be your own ally and choose to appreciate who you are and all that you have to offer. Comparison doesn’t bring us a single thing that we want, but it can take away so much valuable time and energy. Focus on watering your own garden and building your own path when learning how to let go of comparisons in recovery. Take your first step towards recovery and contact Greenbriar Treatment Center today.


1. Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 3(4), 206–222.