Those who abuse alcohol or drugs do so because they are motivated to behave this way. Even though addiction may be destroying their lives the addict feels compelled to continue because of misdirected motivation. An individual will usually be motivated to achieve a goal in order to gain some type of reward. With most goals there is always the risk of failure. Those who are motivated to abuse alcohol or drugs find that pleasure is gained without the risk of failure. In order to escape addiction the addict needs enough motivation to follow this other path.

Motivation Defined

Motivation is a type of force that moves the individual to take action. In common speech it is normal to refer to lazy people as lacking in motivation but this is not strictly the case. If the goal of the individual is to do as little as possible their motivation will be directed to achieving this. Without the motivation to achieve a goal it is unlikely that an individual will have success. This motivation can originate in a number of ways.

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

It is possible to divide motivation into two types. Intrinsic motivation, also known as internal motivation, is the internal force that drives people to do things because they feel it is good or right. Extrinsic motivation, also known as external motivation, comes from external pressures and demands. This extrinsic force can come from societal expectations or from those who have any power over the individual’s life. The threat of punishment and the promise of approval are strong extrinsic motivations.

The addict will usually be influenced by both types of motivation. Alcohol or drugs provide pleasure and this is an intrinsic motivation. A social circle made up of other addicts provides peer pressure to conform and this works as extrinsic motivation. These two forces can be difficult to beat unless the motivation to change is strong enough. A problem for those involved in substance abuse is that they are ambivalent. Their motivation to change is counterbalanced by their motivation to stay addicted.

Self-efficacy and Motivation

Self-efficacy is the belief that an individual has in their own ability to achieve a goal. A rise in self-efficacy leads to increased motivation to achieve a goal. So if an alcoholic has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to defeat their addiction their motivation can increase.

There are a number of ways that self-efficacy can be increased. The usual way that this occurs is through experience. If a goal is achieved easily then the individual will have an increased belief in their ability to achieve the goal again in the future. Another way that self-efficacy can be increased is by witnessing a peer achieve the goal. This can lead to the attitude of ‘if they can do it then so can I.’ It can also be possible to increase self-efficacy by verbally persuading an individual that they have what it takes to achieve a goal.

Motivation in Addiction Rehab

The individual who enters addiction rehab will have developed the motivation to change their life. This decision will usually occur because the addict has hit rock bottom. Perhaps they have recently done something particularly shameful and feel full of remorse. The motivation to change is temporarily stronger than the pull of addiction. This willingness for change can fade into memory unless action is taken to build upon it. In rehab the aim is to increase self-efficacy so that the client remains committed to recovery.

Relapse Due to Lack of Motivation

Relapse is a real threat for anyone who is new to recovery. This risk of a return to substance abuse remains high for the first five years away from alcohol or drugs. Motivation to remain free of addiction is vital in order to prevent relapse. This is the reason why those in early recovery are encouraged to take part in some type of aftercare service such as a fellowship or to attend rehab booster sessions. Motivation can decay over time as the pain of addiction is forgotten. This motivation can be renewed with aftercare so that relapse can be avoided.

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