Snowball Effect in Recovery

From Small Things Come Big Things

It is a well known fact that small things can lead to big things. Even what appears to be an insignificant choice for people at the time can turn out to have life changing consequences. The classic example of this would be somebody who decided to take a different route home, and this meant that they bumped into a stranger who was to later become their life partner. The small things that people do can make a difference to their life, and this is good news for those who are trying to recover from an addiction. When people first become sober their life is likely to appear to them as a complete mess. They can be daunted by the task that faces them. Luckily the snowball effect means that they do not have to fix everything at once. The small changes they make can lead to other changes and this gives their recovery some momentum.

Snowball Effect Defined

The snowball effect is a figurative term that describes how something of small significance can lead to something much larger over time. It is referring to the image of a snowball rolling down a hill. Even a small snowball will pick up more snow as it moves. This means that by the time it reaches the bottom of the hill the snowball can be quite large. The snowball effect can lead to an increased negative (vicious circle) or increased positive effect (virtuous circle).

Addiction and the Snowball Effect

Those individuals who fall into addiction are victims of the snowball effect. They are caught in a vicious circle that is destroying their world. Most people will turn to substance abuse in the beginning in order to escape some suffering in their life. In the beginning alcohol and drugs do seem to be helping, but after a bit of time the substance abuse starts causing problems for the individual. In order to escape the deterioration in their life the individual increases their intake of alcohol or drugs, but this only leads to further problems which the individual needs to self-medicate. This person is caught in a downward spiral, and if they can’t escape it will lead them to lose everything they cherish in life. It can take a great deal of determination to escape this downward trajectory, but those who can see where the journey is taking them are able to summon up the motivation to escape this vicious cycle.

Significance of the Snowball Effect for People in Recovery

The snowball effect can be of huge significance for those people who are trying to escape from an addiction. Building a new life after addiction can appear like an almost impossible task, but the individual is able to accomplish this by starting off with small changes. The snowball effect works for people in recovery by:

* Many people who are in early recovery suffer from low self esteem. The small successes they have in early recovery boost their self worth, and this gives them the courage to aim higher.
* If people are given the goal of fixing their life after addiction it will appear as too huge a task. Instead the individual is asked to focus on progress and not perfection – this creates a virtuous circle that will eventually take them to their goal of a better life.
* The snowball effect keeps the individual motivated in recovery. This is vital because a loss of motivation could mean that the individual slips back into their addiction.
* One of the biggest dangers in recovery is becoming stuck – it means that the individual becomes more likely to relapse because being stuck is uncomfortable. The virtuous circle gives people momentum so they are unlikely to ever become stuck.

Snowball Effect and Self Esteem

It is common for addicts to suffer low self esteem. This means that they do not value themselves very highly, and they feel deserving of a poor quality of life. When the individual enters sobriety they can continue to suffer from low self esteem. This interferes with their ability to find true happiness in their new life, and it means that they are at high risk of relapse.

One of the most effective ways for people to improve their self esteem is for them to experience the taste of success. This can start off as small achievements, but the snowball effect means that it leads onto bigger things. Each time the individual experiences success it gives them a boost so they can aim even higher next time which will lead to an even bigger boost. Over time the individual finds that their self esteem has increased significantly due to this virtuous circle of achievement leading to further achievements.

Achieving Goals and the Snowball Effect

It is often suggested that those who wish to achieve a major goal should break it down into smaller goals. The wisdom of this advice is easier to comprehend when the snowball effect is taken into account. If people are faced with an enormous task it will appear daunting, and this may harm their motivation. The individual may decide that the task just involves too much, and they will not be able to achieve it. By breaking this intimidating goal into smaller ones it all appears more manageable. Every time the individual hits one of these smaller targets their motivation will be given a boost, and this will spur them on to the next target. Eventually the individual will end up at their final goal by way of the virtuous circle.

Other Important Effects That Can Be of Value to People in Recovery

The snowball effect is often confused with other types of effects – probably because these phrases sound quite similar. Although the following effects differ from the snowball effect they can be of great value to people in recovery:

* The domino effect refers to chain of events where each occurrence is triggered by a previous event. An example of this would be when an individual makes a positive health choice (such as quitting smoking), and this triggers further positive health choices.
* The butterfly effect refers to how small changes in a system can lead to much larger changes over time. An example of this might occur if the individual starts meditating for 10 minutes a day – this might mean that they are more alert in their life and this could mean that they make a life changing decision that they otherwise would have missed.
* The avalanche effect is where one small change causes other changes in the system that are more significant.

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