Danger of Ambivalence in Recovery

Ambivalent Attitude towards Sobriety

Even when those people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs realize that this behavior is causing them suffering it can still be hard for them to quit. This is often because they have mixed feelings about a life away from addiction. These individuals have come to associate happiness in life with a regular supply of their favorite mind altering substance. They may not really believe that it is possible to find happiness without such chemicals. This means that while they have some good reasons to quit they fail to take action because they are still so obsessed with alcohol or drugs. Such individuals could be described as having an ambivalent attitude toward sobriety.

Ambivalence Defined

Ambivalence refers to a situation in which a person holds two opposing attitudes or feelings. The classic example of this is when one person both loves and hates the same individual. Another way of describing ambivalence is having both negative and positive feelings about someone or something. The most common way of describing this type of attitude is to say that the individual has mixed feelings or is sitting on the fence. The word ambivalence is made up of ambi which is Latin for both, and valentia which means strong.

Ambivalence and Addiction

Ambivalence can be a problem for people who are caught in an addiction. The mixed feelings they have about quitting their alcohol and drug abuse can keep them trapped for years. They will have times when they recognize just how much their substance abuse is ruining their life, and they will want to stop. The problem is that they will also continue to believe that it is only these chemicals that make life worth living. The individual is caught between two opposing thoughts. They sometimes desperately want to stop, but they also continue to feel completely dependent on alcohol or drugs to cope with life. Until the individual is able to overcome their ambivalence they will be stuck in addiction and their misery.

Ambivalence and Motivation

Motivation is a force that humans use to help ensure that they maximize pleasure and minimize pain. It is the driving force behind voluntary action. Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal drive needed to take action. This involves doing something because it is good or right. Extrinsic motivation occurs due to external expectations and demands, such as peer pressure and legal obligations. Addicts are highly motivated to continue their abuse, but this is a type of misdirected motivation because it leads to so much suffering.

In order for people to overcome an addiction they will need to have a strong motivation to do so. So long as they have mixed feelings about recovery they will find it extremely hard to quit. This is because overcoming a physical and psychological dependent on alcohol or drugs takes a great deal of effort; the driving force behind this effort will be motivation. So long as the individual is ambivalent their motivation to quit is counterbalanced by their desire to keep drinking or using drugs.

Ambivalence and Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing can be used to help the individual overcome their feelings of ambivalence. This technique can help the individual to overcome any resistance they have about entering recovery. In other words, the aim is to move the person from being ambivalent about giving up their addiction to being determined to quit. The therapist does not usually directly tackle the client’s resistance to recovery. Instead, their job is to guide the individual towards readiness. When people are caught in an addiction will fluctuate between wanting to stop and waning to remain with the substance abuse. The goal of the therapy will be to make best use of those times when the individual is ready to quit.

Dangers of Ambivalence in Recovery

If people hope to build a successful recovery, they will need to overcome their feelings of ambivalence. These are some of the dangers of not overcoming these feelings:

* Recovery is a process and not an event. This means that the work is not over just because the individual has managed to stop using alcohol or drugs. It would be truer to say that the real work has only begun. If people have an ambivalent attitude towards recovery they are unlikely to put enough effort into the process.
* Ambivalence can suck away all motivation. If the individual is not really sure the attractiveness of sobriety they will continue to feel a pull back to their old behavior. When times become tough in recovery they will not have the motivation to keep on going. This means that those who are ambivalent about sobriety will be far more likely to relapse.
* When people have mixed feelings about recovery they are likely to take more risks with their sobriety. This may mean that they continue to spend time with their drinking and drugging friends or that they continue to go to bars. This type of behavior will be putting their recovery in severe jeopardy.
* When the individual is of two minds about something, they are more likely to be cynical, which can impede recovery.
* Ambivalence towards things that are important to the individual can make their life difficult. They may sometimes even feel like they are at war with themselves, with opposing views pulling them in opposite directions. It is normal for people to have mixed feelings on issues that are not important to them, but on issues of importance, ambivalence can be disruptive.

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