Major life changes are situations or events that cause a person’s life to alter. These changes can be positive or negative and people respond in different ways. The birth of a child, changing jobs, moving house, entering a new relationship or financial woes can cause stress levels to rise and a worsening of health status. Changes to poor relationships, illness and entering a new phase of life such as retirement can give some people a new found freedom to do things they have never done before like travel. Major life changes can also be a factor in substance abuse or relapse. Recognizing that major life changes can be a trigger for the abuse of drugs or alcohol is an important goal for people who are in recovery. In others significant life events are a catalyst for moving on from an addiction to a new, clean and sober life.
Stress is a consequence of major life changes. It is the body responding to things that require action. In some cases, the body and mind are unable to cope with these challenges and stress will manifest in health problems. In other cases, stress is positive and can encourage a person to do things efficiently and get an outcome. That outcome could be working really hard to achieve a project goal, preparing to move house or making a decision to end a difficult relationship at short notice. Stress is known to be the cause of many different health problems, including drug and alcohol addiction.
It can damage mental health and trigger the onset of anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar and depression disorders. It can also cause physical health problems including back pain, migraines, digestive functioning and may be a factor in the development of heart disease and cancer. Many people find it incredibly difficult to mange stress in their life and use alcohol or drugs to deal with it. This is incredibly dangerous as it does not deal with what the stress is, why it is causing such grief and it may also lead to the development of a dependence on drugs or alcohol.
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a list of life events that can contribute to illness. The scale has been found to provide an accurate test of the correlation between stressful life events and the development of an illness. A correlation of 0.118 was found between life event and illness. In developing the scale, Holmes and Rahe studied over 5000 people and gained an accurate understanding of the events that can trigger illness. An illness can include a drug or alcohol addiction.
Each event on the scale is called a Life Change Unit and has a different weight for stress. The death of a spouse is considered to rate 100 and pregnancy is rated at 40, for example. Each person is asked to check off significant life events that have occurred in the last 2 years to give a rating on their risk of illness. If a person rates a score of over 150 on the scale, they may be at risk of an illness. A score of over 300 means that the person is at a high risk of illness.
The life events with the highest change units assigned include death of spouce, divorce, marital seperation, imprisonment, death of family members, personal injury or illness, marriage, dismissal from work, retirement, etc. Even vacation/holiday and the Christmas season have life change units assigned to them.
Many people are afraid of change and afraid of what it signals. Changes in life are scary, especially if these changes are done alone or are a forced situation such as the loss of a job or spousal death. Most people respond to major life changes by experiencing stress which can be overwhelming, but individuals should use the fear of change to their benefit.
Stress and fear may signal that a person has become comfortable and compliant with their place in life. They fear getting out of the life they are living and being a new person. If they have been an addict for a long time, they are unsure of who they are or what they might become without their drug. However, making important and significant life changes can mean that a person will get to experience things they had never imagined, like travel, meeting a new partner or having a new job. It can also be used to overcome an addiction and live a new exciting sober life. This decision is one that will change how a person will live in the future.
Most people who are going through the significant life change of overcoming an addiction would be well advised to try to avoid making other massive changes to their life. This advice is sensible because it tries to eliminate situations that may impact on the success of the recovery process. Making significant life changes early in the recovery process will place an additional strain on a person who is in a very sensitive time in their life. Of course there are situations that will be unavoidable, but the most common advice is to get recovering addicts to avoid making unnecessary major life changes if possible and to seek support when implementing any change.
Recovery is a sensitive time for a person to go through and if they are making too many life changes at the same time this can mean that they are not committing to the process of recovery enough. Other changes will influence their emotions, time committed to rehab or dealing with personal problems. By not putting in 100 percent of their effort to overcoming an addiction, a substance abuser is at a higher risk of failing and relapsing. In addition, moving from an addiction to a life of sobriety is a massive adjustment to a person’s life and making other life changes at this time could be overwhelming and these decisions could be regretted later in life.