Humans tend to look to other people for clues about how best to navigate life. Social learning theorists claim that this means that people can learn without the need to experience everything for themselves. If other people make a mistake, it is possible to learn from this. There is no need to repeat the mistake. If people are successful at something, then it makes sense to try to copy their actions. Imitating these role models can save plenty of time and effort.
It is particularly important for people who are recovering from an addiction to have good role models. This will allow them to follow a path to success that has already been well-trodden. Early sobriety can be particularly treacherous, so it makes sense to follow in the footsteps of those who have successful navigated this path previously.
A role model is any individual whose behavior in a particular role is copied by other people. The most common reason why people will copy such behavior is that they believe that it will benefit them in some way. They wish to be more like the person they are trying to imitate. A good role model in recovery would be an individual who has built a successful life away from addiction.
It is possible for role models to have a good or bad influence. This is why celebrities and athletes are heavily criticized when they indulge in negative behaviors such as taking drugs. The worry is that their fans might be encouraged to copy such behavior.
In Alcoholics Anonymous they advise members to stick with the winners. What they mean by this is that spending time with those individuals who have built a successful recovery is beneficial. It is not only possible to learn a great deal from these individuals, but it can also be highly motivating. Positive role models can increase the self-efficacy of other people. They are living proof of what it is possible to achieve in a life away alcohol and drugs. This encourages the individual to think, If they can do it, then so can I.
Spending time with people who have a strong recovery record is not the only point of advice here. It is also important to avoid negative role models. There are people who no longer drink alcohol or take drugs but have still failed to find happiness in recovery. Such individuals can be full of negative thinking and resentment. They have developed a condition known as dry drunk syndrome. It can be dangerous for newly sober people to spend too much time with these negative types. They not only offer bad advice, but their negativity can be infectious. Those who are ready to relapse may want to take other people down with them.
These are some of the way that having good role models is beneficial:
* Such people will be able to offer sound advice about how to make a successful life in recovery. These are people who are talking from experience and not just mouthing platitudes.
* These individuals are positive about life away from addiction. Such positivity can be contagious.
* It is inspiring to see that people can build a great life away from alcohol and drugs. Those who are struggling in recovery can gain a great deal of hope by spending time with other people who are finding success.
* Those people who are doing well in their own recovery will usually be grateful for this. They often want to give something back by helping other people who are finding things difficult. These role models can be an invaluable resource when the going gets tough.
* A role model will be able to set a good example in many areas of life.
One of the potential dangers with putting too much faith in role models is that it can lead to disappointment. All humans are fallible, but it can come as a shock when a role model falls from grace. Those who are in early recovery can be traumatized if someone they admire relapses back to addiction. They may even be tempted to follow their hero back into a life of alcohol and drugs. This is why it is so important to have realistic expectations of role models. Sometimes, people can put on a good show for the outside world even though things are not going that well. Just because a role model makes a mistake does not mean that the path they were following was a wrong one; it just means that they lost their way.
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