A common suggesting given to newcomers in Alcoholics Anonymous is that they fake it to make it. This might sound like strange advice, but it is based on plenty of anecdotal experience. When people first become sober they can struggle with any addiction recovery program; they might not believe that it is really going to work for them. The advice is that if the individual acts as if it will work then it will encourage them to do the right things so that it does start to work. This occurs because of a phenomenon known as the positive feedback loop.
A self fulfilling prophecy refers to a prediction that causes the event to occur. For example, if an individual predicts that they are going to fail at something this prediction could cause the failure to occur. One of the most common examples of how this works is young children who are treated as less intelligent by their teachers. Even if they are in reality more intelligent than the other students they can begin to perform less well in class. The belief and behavior of the teacher has caused the event to happen.
Those individuals who manage to escape an addiction can set themselves up for failure by way of a self fulfilling prophecy. They believe that their recovery program is not going to work for them. Their prediction of failure means that they will not put enough effort into staying sober, and this leads them to relapse. The prediction of failure has turned out to be correct, but only because the individual made it a reality. The advice to fake it to make it can help the individual avoid falling into the self fulfilling prophecy trap.
A feedback loop refers to how an event in the past will influence the occurrence of this same event in the future. Positive feedbacks actually enhance and amplify effects in the future, and this provides a clue as to how the fake it to make it approach works. The individual acts as if the program is going to work so they do the right things. Their actions cause the right effects to occur in the future which encourages them to do more of the right things. After a bit of time the individual no longer needs to fake it to make it because success in recovery has become a reality – they know the program works from their own experience and this increases their confidence.
One of the most common personality traits of addicts is low self esteem. They can carry this negative evaluation of themselves into recovery. This means that not only can the individual have a lack of confidence in their ability to build a successful, but they might also not even feel they deserve to get better. This is why it is vital for people to build their self-esteem in recovery. They can do this by achieving small successes and building upon these. Each time the individual accomplishes something it increases their own self worth and gives them the motivation to accomplish even more – it is similar to a snowball rolling down a hill.
The life of the addict is all about self-delusion and denial. They refuse to see the reality of their situation so they remained trapped in their misery. When people become sober they are committing to a more honesty way of living where they stop running away from reality. If the individual fails to muster such honesty then it will increase their risk of relapse or developing dry drunk syndrome. Considering this commitment to honesty, it might sound strange that newly sober people are being advised to fake it to make it.
The reality is that faking it to make it does not involve being dishonest or delusional. It is similar to positive thinking and involves no need to lie or ignore problems. The individual is just acting as if the recovery program is already successful so as to put them on the right track – it is like given their sobriety a much needed kick start. Once the individual has established themselves in recovery they won’t be required to fake anything.
Self efficacy can be defined as the faith an individual has in their ability to achieve something. The higher their self efficacy the more likely people will be to achieve their goal. Those who have low self efficacy will lack motivation to complete a task so they are almost doomed to failure. There are a number of ways that people can increase their self-efficacy including:
* Success tends to lead to more success – this is similar to the positive feedback loop mentioned above. By faking it in the beginning the individual can achieve their first successes and get the ball rolling.
* The individual can also increase their self efficacy by modeling the behavior of other people. This means that if they act like somebody who is doing well in recovery they can experience the same success.
* People can also have their self efficacy increased by oral persuasion. A trained therapist can be good at providing this type of motivation.
* Witnessing somebody else achieve something can inspire the individual to do the same – it can lead to thoughts such as, if they can do it then so can I.
The advice to fake it to make it will probably make sense to most people, but they may still be confused by what it actually means. In order to achieve the desired results the individual can:
* Have faith in the experiences of other people. If the program has worked well for other members then there is a good chance it is going to work for the individual.
* Early recovery is not a good time for cynicism or excessive skepticism. In order to find success the individual may need to take a leap of faith.
* In Alcoholics Anonymous they also offer the wise suggestion to stick with the winners. People are highly influenced by other people so spending time with the more inspirational individuals in recovery can encourage the individual to have faith in the program.
* As well as sticking with the winners it is also best to avoid the negative people. Every recovery program will have some individuals who are not getting better – these people can try to drag other people down with them.
* It is possible to cultivate a positive metal outlook and this can increase the chances of success. Building positivity is like building up a muscle – the more people exercise it the strong it becomes.
* Beginners mind is a wonderful tool for people in recovery. It means that they temporarily put aside their opinions, beliefs, and biases so that they are able to assimilate new information.
* Improvements in recovery tend to happen slowly over time, and it is easy to miss them. If people keep a recovery journal it will make it easier for them to track their progress over time.
* Recovery is all about having the willingness to try new things. It is often the things that at first sound unappealing that turn out to be the most beneficial.