02/16/2015 01:53 pm ET Updated Apr 18, 2015

What Purpose Does Your Safety Blanket Serve?

Many of us hold onto things that serve little to no purpose for us. Let's call them safety blankets. These safety blankets represents comfort and safety. They are something outside of ourselves that we reach for to make us feel better and provide validation.

The problem arises when this safety blanket is destructive and tries to sabotage our presence. Some of the common safety blankets are obsessive relationships with drugs, alcohol, money, food, or sex. Engaging in the obsessive behaviors associated with these safety blankets or physically having them on hand becomes a freeing and relieving experience. It becomes an experience that we need and completely takes us out of our experience here and connection to others.

My safety blanket was alcohol and drugs for a long time. I needed them to feel a sense of self and belonging. I needed them as a form of power and control. The thing is, thinking I had the control was an illusion. In reality, they controlled me.

Saying goodbye to my safety blankets hasn't been easy. In many ways, they have gotten me to where I am today. I have to be compassionate to them. I have to forgive and not beat myself up for past decisions or actions.

My safety blankets were a coping mechanism and a source of protection. So in order to give myself that safety and security now, I must go within. This means trusting myself and speaking my truth.

So here are some suggestions to make peace the safety blankets that don't serve us:

1. Have awareness.
Awareness is key. With awareness, you can see the safety blanket for what it is. Maybe your mind goes toward the safety blanket when you feel nervous or anxious. This is a sign and an opportunity to accept the thoughts and work on being true to yourself. You don't need to engage in destructive or sabotaging behaviors when you are triggered.

2. Practice compassion.
Compassion is the magic key. It is easier said than done, but remember that you are human. This means you are flawed. And this means that you are by no means perfect. So if you want to use your safety blanket behaviors to feel better, do something good to yourself. Go for a walk, call a friend, or go to a coffee shop. Try to find connection from within.

3. Talk out loud to yourself.
This is a useful tool. I do it many times. When I notice my mind going towards my safety blanket behaviors, I say "Lauren, you are okay right now. You have so much to be grateful for. Everything is going to be okay." I find that things become okay and I honor and respect myself without having to use destructive behaviors that ultimately leave me with feelings of shame and guilt.

4. Develop new coping mechanisms.
Turning to something outside of yourself on a constant basis gets old. It doesn't feel good and leaves you with lower and lower self-worth. So instead, develop some new coping mechanisms. Maybe it means going for a walk, calling a friend, looking at a picture of yourself when you were a kid, or listening to your favorite song. You are stronger and more resilient than you know.


Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.