Change is Possible for Addicts
Recovery as a Second Chance in Life
The good news for addicts is that people can and do change. No matter how far the individual has fallen as a result of their addiction they should be able to get a second chance in life. The saying that a leopard can’t change its spots does not apply when it comes to addicts. Once the individual is prepared to give up their substance abuse the most amazing things can begin to happen in their life. Giving up alcohol or drugs is usually just the first of many changes that will need to take place in order to build a successful life in sobriety.
Addicts and Fear of Change
Even when the addict reaches a stage where they see the need for change they can still hesitate. The reasons for why these people fear the change that will benefit their life include:
* There is comfort in the familiarity and this is summed up in the saying, it is better the devil you know. The life of an addict can be terribly miserable but it is familiar.
* Those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs can find it almost impossible to imagine how they can possibly live without these substances. They may view life in recovery is being all about deprivation and boredom.
* The addict will often need to give up a great deal more than just alcohol or drugs. They will also be expected to walk away from their drinking and drugging friends.
* The process of change takes people outside of their comfort zone. Addicts have made avoiding any type of discomfort their main goal in life.
* Many addicts are ambivalent about recovery. They intellectually understand that it will be better for them to give up their addiction, but they also continue to believe that happiness can be found with the right combination of alcohol and drugs.
Hitting Rock Bottom and the Willingness to Change
In order for addicts to finally get the motivation to change it is usually necessary for them to hit rock bottom. This is often misunderstood to mean that they will need to lose everything, but this is not what is meant by hitting rock bottom. Every individual will differ in how much they will need to lose before they become willing to change. It is like a passenger going down on an elevator; it is up to them where they want go get off. Those who have a high rock bottom do not need to lose very much before they decide that they have enough. Other people hold onto their addiction until it destroys everything good in their life and eventually it takes them to insanity and death.
The reason why people tend to become sober after hitting rock bottom is that they pain of continued substance abuse now outweighs the fear of change. The individual finally feels beating by their addiction and they become willing to do whatever it takes to escape. When people reach this stage they have the motivation and potential to completely turn their life around.
Importance of Change in Recovery
Those who are newly sober are often advised that recovery is a process and not an event. Rather than giving up alcohol or drugs being the end of something it is really just the beginning. The addict would not be able to begin rebuilding their life without quitting the addiction, but it is only the first step. The individual will need to make plenty more changes in the future, and this process of change never really stops. There is no graduation day for people in recovery.
Things that Need to Change in Recovery
There are a number of things that the individual will need to change if they want to build a successful recovery including:
* One of the reasons for why people fall into addiction in the first place is that they find life too uncomfortable to deal with. In recovery the individual has to find a new way of dealing with things.
* Addicts use a number of ineffective coping mechanisms in order to cope with their life. Once they become sober they will be expected to abandon these unhelpful ways of coping and instead adopt effective coping strategies.
* It is suggested that most addicts share a number of negative characteristics known as the addictive personality. Once people become sober they can begin working on these character flaws.
* Those people who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs will usually have poor interpersonal skills. In order to build meaningful relationships in sobriety they will need to find better ways of dealing with other people.
* Those people who fall into addiction tend to have low self esteem. Once people become sober they can begin rebuilding their self-worth and feel good about themselves again.
* Self-obsession is common among addicts, and it only ever leads to misery. Those who build a life in sobriety learn the joy of spending more time thinking about others.
* Addicts can be extremely arrogant and closed-minded. In recovery they will need to develop a beginner’s mind.
The Dangers of Becoming Stuck in Recovery
If people in recovery refuse to change they can become stuck. This usually occurs because they are faced with a challenge that they do not wish to deal with. In order to overcome this obstacle in their path they will need to change, and their refusal to do so is dangerous because:
* When people become stuck in recovery things become uncomfortable. They may decide to deal with this discomfort by relapsing or turning to other maladaptive behaviors.
* The reason why people become sober is that they hope to live a better life. When they become stuck in recovery it gets in the way of them achieving this aspiration.
* Some people respond to becoming stuck in recovery by developing dry drunk syndrome. This means that even though they no longer abuse mind altering substances their behavior continues to be poor.
* Becoming stuck is the first step in the relapse process.
Self-Efficacy and Change
Self efficacy is the belief that the individual has in their ability to make a change or reach a goal. Those who have low self efficacy will lack the motivation needed to make a change in life. It is possible to increase self efficacy by:
* Witnessing a peer successfully make the change or achieve the goal works because the individual begins to think, if they can do it then so can I.
* By having some success at making a change.
* The individual can be verbally encouraged into believing that they have the ability to make the change.
How to Deal with Change in Recovery
Change is an inevitable part of life and those who try to fight against it can end up suffering as a result. There are things that people can do to make the process of change easier including:
* If people understand the need for a change they are less likely to fight it.
* It is helpful if people learn to appreciate the transformational capabilities of change. Even changing a few things in their life can have an impact.
* It is important that people in recovery take responsibility for achieving their own success in life. This will mean that they can more clearly see the need for change and be willing to accept it.
* In Alcoholics Anonymous it is often advised that members stick with the winners. This is because the individual can be inspired to make positive change by those who have already successfully made these changes.
* Any major change in life can lead to a great deal of stress. People can use things like relaxation techniques to help them deal with this stress.
* Most change occurs so slowly over time that people miss out on its effects. Those who keep a journal will be in a better position to notice how change is benefiting their life over time.
* 12 step groups provide a program for change that each member is encouraged to follow. Some individuals find that they are able to deal with change better with the help of a fellowship.
* A therapist can be a wonderful resource for people who are struggling with the changes they need to make in recovery.
* Once people have managed to make a few positive changes in their life and they see the results of this it increases their confidence. Rather than change appearing as something threatening it becomes their greatest friend.