By: Marilyn L. Davis
Change – How Do You Go from Nowhere to Somewhere?
“It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.”― Roy T. Bennett
Each day, we have choices in how to behave, think, and feel. We also have the option to stay the same or change. Staying the same in our addiction means we are nowhere. We know we’ll get somewhere else when we decide to change and move forward in our recovery. However, we often create barriers, even when we realize that a change is necessary.
Whenever we attempt to change, we experience a heightened sense of anxiety or apprehension. And that’s just the thinking about changing, let alone the actions necessary to make those changes.
Some of this anxiety occurs because we don’t know the outcome or what somewhere will look like when we get there. These uncomfortable feelings about change are especially acute when it’s a new behavior, thought, or attitude.
How We Stay Stuck in Nowhere
We want someone to tell us what’s going to happen if we do make changes. However, we’ll often negate the experiences of others with statements that create barriers to our changes and keep us stuck in nowhere:
- “Oh, it might have worked for you, but I’m different because…”
- “Why should I go to recovery support meetings”?
- “People aren’t trustworthy; I can’t confide in them!”
- “Two years ago, I tried recovery, and I wasn’t successful.”
Our barriers are self-imposed for the most part. That’s both good and bad news. Good because it’s an attitude within us, and therefore, we can change it. However, that’s the downside, too, as most of us don’t like to feel uncomfortable in our life choices.
We want to experience only the pleasant feelings in life and to change, we have to accept that we will feel uncomfortable making changes. Click To Tweet
A simple way to decide your willingness, regardless of your feelings, is to ask two essential questions:
• Are the risks of staying the same higher than the discomfort of change?
• Am I willing to experience uneasiness or anxiety?
Even if you’ve decided that you can tolerate feeling uncomfortable while changing, there are still barriers to change.
Five Most Common Barriers
People continue to create barriers and prevent themselves from moving forward and growing. Even when they see others changing, thriving, and living better lives in recovery, they continue to stay trapped.
Here are the five most common barriers. There are also a few suggestions for overcoming the particular block when you relate to any of the following descriptors of obstacles to change.
Do not stop with this. Research your options, seek out others in a similar situation, and ask for help with the changes.
1. Blaming Others
People have a hard time focusing on what they need to change when focused on what is wrong with everyone else. Keeping score on how others have hurt them, or how much of a given situation someone else caused, move the primary focus from self-changes to blame.
Without absolving anyone for their responsibilities in your current situation, your primary focus must be on what you need to do to improve your recovery or your life.
The reality is that we are never going to change anyone else. Therefore, the only option is to change ourselves – including behaviors, attitudes, or feelings. Sometimes, it’s the circumstances, like a new job or removing yourself from an abusive relationship.
2. Fears: Assumptions about the Future
More often than not, when people start focusing on changing, they begin predicting and assuming the outcomes – “If I do this, then that will happen.”
Given that none of us can predict the future, invariably, the apprehension about the future spirals into the “What Ifs.” Here are a few “What Ifs” to reference:
- What if I don’t like the changes? Then change direction.
- What if I can’t change quickly? Make progress; we’re not striving for perfection.
- What if they’re still mad at me? Our families, friends, and employers need time to trust that our changes are ongoing, not just done to appease them at the moment – keep changing.
- What if I don’t like the way I feel when I make changes? Learn to journal, talk about your feelings, and realize that all feelings will pass – be patient.
Rather than focus on the “What ifs” concerning the future, ask yourself if you are more afraid of staying the same or changing.
Staying the same and stuck in your feelings, attitudes, and situations means you will continue to experience the same outcomes and be trapped nowhere. That choice to stay the same condemns you to the misery of your addiction.
Too often, people rely on their intellect, believing that they are smart enough to make changes without asking for directions specific to recovery.
If you consider recovery as a new subject or skill, it can remove some false beliefs that you should know what to do.
The reality is that while you are intelligent, most people do not intuitively know how to do things well the first few times they attempt something. Think about the following. Do you know how to:
- Effectively Deal With Cravings
- Trust Others
- Rebuild a relationship with Family and Friends
- Change Self-defeating Behaviors, Thoughts, and Attitudes
- Stop blaming others
- Develop healthy coping skills
- Process issues
If you discover that you do not know how to do any of the things on the list, use your intelligence wisely, and ask for help, guidance, or instructions from people who know.
4. Mistrusting People
Trusting a stranger’s advice feels foolish; after all, most people in the drug lifestyle were not trustworthy. Therefore, a certain cynicism and mistrust cloud most of your encounters with people trying to help you in early recovery.
Learn to separate your feelings when you listen to suggestions or directions from others.
It is okay to ask someone if their support and guidance comes from education, personal knowledge, or observation without challenging their help.
When you find that they have worked in this field for multiple years or are in recovery themselves, common sense tells you that they may have some solutions to your problems.
Furthermore, most people do not want to give directions, suggestions, or information that proves incorrect; after all, that would mean they were wrong.
Therefore, dropping your guard, listening to advice, following directions, and deciding if you like the outcomes can help you resolve your trust issues.
If you set aside the trust issues about people, remember that the recovery process is over 70 years old. That means that the process works and can help you if you’re uncertain about the person telling you the directions.
5. Uncertain Rewards
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that you will win the Mother of the Year Award now that you are in recovery or win the girl because you are currently taking a shower every day. There are still uncertainties in recovery; however, there are more opportunities for better outcomes than in active addiction.
Remember all of those missed opportunities in your addiction? In recovery, when you make changes and follow directions, the rewards will come. You won’t miss as many opportunities. Just as importantly, there are self-defeating behaviors besides using that prevent you from realizing positive rewards.
The simple changes showed us that doing something concrete and then evaluating the outcomes motivated us to make more changes.
From This to That and Nowhere to Somewhere
Here is a partial list that might help you see where simple changes in behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes could positively influence your recovery and life. Start with six universal negative aspects and make an effort to change them.
- Assuming to Asking Questions
- Careless to Careful
- Complacent to Interested
- Irresponsible to Accountable
- Arrogant to Open-minded
- Resistant to Willing
Remember, you always have a choice in how you think, act, feel, and behave.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.