By: Marilyn L. Davis
“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” ― Paulo Coelho
When It’s Talk of Change, What Do You Hear?
For some of you, merely knowing what your choices have cost you or the consequences you have gotten is not enough to get you to change. For many of you, the fear of both success and failure will prevent you from moving forward. When someone tells you to what or how to change, your attitude can become the stumbling block. Ask yourself what you hear when someone tells you how or what to change. Some of your hear:
- You’re bad
- Negative descriptions: a loser, idiot or other negative connotations
- That you aren’t changing enough
- Your changes came too late to salvage something: relationships, jobs, children
Is The Message an Old One?
Negative messages from your past can also prevent you from making changes. And for some, well they just get stubborn when someone else brings up the changes that they think are necessary. Clearly, if someone you care about has asked you to change, a court has told you to change, treatment is encouraging you to change, and a part of you wants to change, then there must be some other barriers within you that prevents you from fully and completely embracing change.
For many addicts and alcoholics coming to terms with the puzzle of addiction – knowing they need to change and doing the complete opposite is frustrating and scary.
However, the good news is that the barriers and objections are within you and that means you can change them. It’s just a matter of isolating them, examining them and then changing what doesn’t work or fit anymore.
Do You Want to Change?
Even with people or courts telling you to change, you still choose to change. If you’re not taking advantage of an opportunity to do something different, can you list the obstacles or barriers that prevent you from changing? There are not right or wrong answers for this, and you should not edit them thinking some of them are dumb or stupid.
Some barriers and objections to change might include:
1. You are more comfortable acting and thinking in your old ways, and do not want to be uncomfortable trying to change the actions and thoughts.
2. You are uncertain how to change
3. You are uncertain what to change and what to change it into
4. You believe that change is too difficult
5. You disagree with treatment about some things you need to change and create obstacles and barriers when these topics come up.
6. You do not know whether to believe your facilitator, counselor, or peers when they talk about all the positive outcomes from changing.
7. You feel fear and anxiety when you think about change and those are two feelings that you used over so change is now a trigger to use.
8. You’re concerned with the consequences of the change – what if people do not like the changed you?
When you make your list, use some from above if they describe your barriers and objections, but if they do not, then be honest, and come up with your own, so that it is personal and relevant to you.
Too many people process information from the perspective of, “Well, that didn’t describe me, so, I’m not like them.” It’s a selective viewpoint that may keep you stuck in your addiction.
Selective Viewing and Change
The ability to change perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, actions, and behaviors is within you. Let me explain the mechanics or mechanism of change. Think about a typical day:
1. You set clothes out last night to wear today; got up this morning and changed your mind and decided to wear something else.
2. You got to an intersection going to work, saw that there was a traffic problem up ahead, changed your mind, and went another way to work.
3. You were listening to the radio, enjoying the music and then did not like the next song, so you changed the station until you found something you liked.
4. A co-worker mentioned a new restaurant and you changed your mind about what you were having for lunch very quickly.
The changes noted in the examples happen in our use as well as our recovery. You had no problem changing the things mentioned. You decided that the other available choices would be more pleasant or enjoyable, so you had no problem changing. However, the point is that we change daily.
Choices in Changing
So, if we are capable of changing many things in our lives, why are most of them accomplished without all the encouragement, threats, coercion, punishments, and rewards?
Because our ability to change is always there, however, our choices of what to change is often selective. We change what we want to change.
It is often when we cannot see that change will improve our lives, or that we will feel better because of the change, we often balk, resist, or create barriers and objections to change.
Will the Outcomes Always Be Better with Changes?
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. The changes will not bring about circumstances where you win the lottery since you spent the money on a ticket instead of drugs; that you will become witty, debonair and get the prom queen because you are now showering daily, or that your mothering instincts will magically kick inbecause you are not drunk.
What can happen is that these changes give you an opportunity to learn something new; that you might just experience a non-using relationship and that you can now take a parenting class without the fear of nodding off.
Drug dealers and high-end prostitutes have a hard time changing their perception of “making money.” If they were successful, money was not the issue, but the threat of incarceration for both, the paranoia of the activity for both, the physical dangers of the occupations would have been present for both.
Besides the money, the ego and control over others are hard to give up. So what, if anything, would make changing their occupations appealing to them? It certainly would not be the minimum wage job that their other skills qualify them for in the workforce. Therefore, income or lack of it could be an objection to recover.
They would have to find something that had enough personal appeal to change their attitude about their economic future in recovery.
The dealer may have business savvy and skills that could help him in running another, legal business. The escort has learned a lot about people and those skills could translate to customer services, marketing, and sales. Granted, these are not necessarily high payingjobs, but they are a start towards legitimacy for both.
Baby Steps for Changes
Some people think that the “change” has to come all at once, or that the first changes will be perfect. Rarely does this happen about the ideas, behaviors, and actions that you have operated from for years. However, you can make headway on the big change by doing little things about it daily.
Many people don’t make changes because they procrastinate, or they spend
hours thinking about changing. Then the project has gotten so large, that it seems insurmountable. This happens for many of us in early recovery. We view the past and see all of our missed opportunities, wasted time, and damaged relationships. We don’t think we can ever repair any of it.
If you procrastinate because the problems seem so large and would take you more time than you think you have, spend 10 minutes on it.
See what self-defeating behaviors cost you the opportunity, and then make changes so you won’t miss another. Pick up the phone and call, make amends, or do something nice for those who support you.
When you make that much headway, you’re often pleased with your progress and will spend a little more time on the resolving some of your issues, you’ll probably feel a sense of relief that you’ve made progress and you might even be encouraged to do a little more tomorrow.
This attitude about change will work for cleaning your house, detailing your car, or removing barriers and objections to change.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart
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