Self-Efficacy and Staying Sober

Belief in the Ability to Stay Sober

If an addict does not have faith in their ability to stay sober they are unlikely to achieve lasting sobriety. They will be expecting to fail so will not be willing to put much effort into preventing this from happening. The reason for why this individual is so pessimistic of their chances of success is that they have low self-efficacy.

Self-Efficacy Defined

Self-efficacy can be defined as the belief the individual has in their own ability to achieve a goal. If the individual has high self-efficacy it means that they have a strong belief in their ability to achieve something. Those who have a low self-efficacy expect that they will fail. The concept of self-efficacy is important because if people do not believe that they have the ability to achieve something they are unlikely to put in the necessary work to make it happen.

Self-Efficacy and Motivation

Self-efficacy is closely related to motivation. In particular it is related to a intrinsic motivation. This is an internal driving force that compels people to complete a goal or task – usually because they think it is going to be fun, worthwhile, or good. It differs from extrinsic motivation which refers to how people feel compelled to do something because of external pressures such as other people’s expectations. Intrinsic motivation is said to be a more powerful force than extrinsic motivation. It can drive people to accomplish amazing things. Those who have high self-efficacy will also be benefiting from extrinsic motivation.

Causes of Low Self-Efficacy

There are a number of reasons for why people may have low self-efficacy including:

* A history of failure lowers self-efficacy. The individual begins to believe that their next project is doomed from the start.
* Those people who have low self-esteem underestimate their abilities and may even believe that they deserve to fail.
* People are highly influenced by their peers. Spending time with other individuals who have low self-efficacy will encourage the individual to lose faith in their own abilities.
* Some people associate the feeling of nervousness before trying to achieve a goal as a sign that they are about to fail. For other people these butterflies in the stomach can increase their self-efficacy because they view it as a sign that something good is about to happen.

How to Increase Self-Efficacy

The chances of achieving a goal are greatly improved when people have high self-efficacy. There are things that can be done to increase an individual’s belief in their ability to achieve something such as:

* It is a well reported phenomena that success breeds success. If people have some success in life it will increase their self-efficacy so it may be a good idea to work on achieving small goals at first before moving onto the bigger ones.
* Another way to increase self-efficacy is through modeling the behavior of other people. Witnessing a peer achieve a goal can increase self-efficacy because the individual will think, if they can do it then so can I.
* People can have their self-efficacy increased by verbal persuasion. Another person can provide a convincing argument for why the individual will be able to achieve their goal.
* Social groups can increase self-efficacy by offering encouragement. A classic example of this would be sports fans cheering on their team – they can actually lift the morale of the athletes thus impacting their self-efficacy.

Self-Efficacy and Addiction Recovery

There are many individuals who remain trapped in addiction because they just don’t believe in their own ability to quit. Their self-efficacy is low when it comes to breaking their addiction. This may be because they have previously tried to quit and failed or because they have seen their friends fail. The individual may believe that staying away from alcohol and drugs is going to be too difficult. They may imagine a future in recovery that is all about deprivation and boredom. Even if there is a great deal of extrinsic motivation to encourage this individual to stop they are still likely to fail because of their low self-efficacy. In order for this individual to be able to escape the misery of addiction they will need to increase their self-efficacy.

Self-Efficacy and Sobriety

In order for people to build a successful life away from addition they will need to regularly face and overcome challenges that appear in their path. Just giving up alcohol or drugs is unlikely to be enough to find happiness in recovery because the factors that drove the individual into addiction in the first place are likely to be still there. If they want to create a new life they will need to change many things including:

* It is suggested that those who fall into addiction tend to share certain character traits that make them susceptible to maladaptive behaviors. The individual will need to overcome the character flaws that make up the addictive personality if they hope to build a good life.
* Addicts pick up ineffective coping mechanisms to help them cope with life. A major part of the work of recovery involves finding more effective tools for coping.
* Those people who became addicted to alcohol and drugs at an early life may have missed out on academic and career opportunities. In sobriety they will likely want to rectify this situation.
* One of the great joys of recovery is that people can achieve their dreams and aspirations. In order to make this possible they will need to face many challenges and be open to change.
* Addicts tend to struggle with healthy social interaction and this means that they can feel isolated from other people. In recovery they will need to put effort into changing so that they can build meaningful relationships.
* When people are addicted to alcohol and drugs they tend to absorb many unhealthy beliefs and opinions. In recovery they will need to abandon many of these unhelpful ways of looking at the world.

In order for people in recovery to successfully meet the challenges facing them they will need a high degree of self-efficacy.

Self-Efficacy and Relapse

If people have low self-efficacy in their ability to stay sober it will mean that they are more susceptible to relapse. They will not have the motivation to do those things that they need to do in order to maintain their sobriety. It may only take a few bumps on the recovery path to knock them completely off course and they will use this as justification to return to alcohol or drug abuse. This is why it is important that people keep their self-efficacy high while recovery from an addiction.

How to Keep Self-Efficacy High in Recovery

There are things that people can do to keep their self-efficacy high in recovery including:

* The fact that the individual has been able to escape their addiction should give their self-efficacy a boost. The individual can build on this to carry them forward into a successful recovery.
* If the individual has an important goal that they would like to achieve in recovery it is usually best to break this down into smaller goals. This will not only make the objective appear more manageable but each time that the individual manages to accomplish one of the smaller goals it will increase their self-efficacy.
* One suggestion for how people can get ahead in life is to stick with the winners. This means that spending time with those who already managed to build a successful recovery is a wise thing to do for anyone hoping to do the same.
* Membership of a recovery fellowship may help to increase self-efficacy. The members of these groups offer each other support and encouragement.
* Some people find that attending therapy sessions in recovery can be highly useful. The therapist is there to offer support and encouragement, and they also ensure that the client is going in the right direction.
* It is important that people learn to develop a different attitude towards failure. The only real failure is given up and when things go the wrong way it can be a great chance to learn so as to improve the chances of success next time.
* Devoting time to making use of recovery resources can also be a good option. This can include inspirational books, videos, audio content, and even iPhone apps.
* Progress tends to occur slowly over time and people can miss the important changes that are happening in their lie. Keeping a recovery journal can be a great help because it makes it easy for people to compare their life now to how it was before.

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