By: Marilyn L. Davis
How Urgent is the Need for Change?
Change doesn’t occur without a sense of urgency that we need to do something differently. But even when we know that a change is necessary, all changes, even good ones, produce stress. Hans Selye is one of the first researchers to give us a working definition of stress, a ‘Nonspecific responses in the body to any demand, whether, caused by, or results in, pleasant or unpleasant conditions.
For the majority of us, giving up drugs as alcohol was the most difficult change we ever made. And yes, it caused stress, and for some people, stress was a reason they used, so it becomes a vicious cycle of trying to get and stay in recovery.
Managing Stress and Making Changes
If we have a well-defined emotional attachment to changing, we can talk about our stressful feelings or write about them to help overcome them.
However, for others, they know they need to change, but continue to justify, rationalize, and make excuses for not changing. They will continue doing what they usually do, hoping that their lack of change goes unnoticed, or some people will simply be stubborn/willful/short-sighted and not change out of spite.
Can We Change the Subject?
We know when we do not have a sense of urgency. We find ourselves bored by conversations about our changes; we silently or verbally state that the conversation should just move on, and be dismissive of the criticism, with an attitude of “It’s been discussed enough, let’s move on.”
We often see this lack of urgency for change in children when they:
- “Forget to bring their books home.”
- Don’t do assignments at all.
- Leave their homework at home.
- See no reason to turn assignments in on time.
They see no reason to get their assignments done promptly or turned in. They may do them but leave them at home, or they simply didn’t do it in the first place as they see no benefit in doing it.
Many adults in treatment do not see that being inattentive in group or recovery supportive meetings is a problem. They are likely to miss valuable information about changing their lives for the better. They do not understand that forgetting to do worksheets for treatment is another way of being dismissive of getting to the root of their addictions.
It’s Changing our Feelings and Thoughts, Too
When we are not emotionally invested in change, beyond giving up drugs and alcohol, our feelings, attitudes, and behaviors often stay the same. Many people are comfortable acting, reacting, processing, and feeling a certain way in a given situation. For instance, someone questions your behaviors– you become defensive, you become combative, you become rude and disrespectful. You do this because you:
- Don’t like “bad” things discussed if you are the focus.
- Think you’re fooling people.
- You still get something out of the behavior being discussed.
- You’re unwilling to go through the pains associated with changing.
These are the actions, attitudes, and behaviors that need changing.
We’re Not the Only Ones Changing
The reality is that change is going to feel painful, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and uncertain. Too often people focus only on their pain, what they will have to go through to change, without reflecting on the pain that their actions have caused loved ones and friends.
They deny or minimize their impact on family, their children, and society. They act as though it is some sacrifice on their part to change without realizing how many other people are sacrificing for them to have an opportunity to change.
People complain that change is hard. Change requires mindfulness. Change requires giving up long-held beliefs. Change demands that they give up something in the hopes of getting something else.
But there are others who are going through changes as well.
The families who are now raising the children so the parents can go to treatment. Families who are sacrificing monies allocated to themselves that they are now using to help with treatment, and time spent in family support meetings when they might rather be doing something else.
Changing is Not Immediate: Attitude Is
Too many addicts seem bonded to instant gratification, and that’s not what recovery is about; change takes practice. They will never get the better outcomes that they want without effort and the emotional urgency to change, and an attitude of willingness to keep improving.
Moving from the comfort zone is not as frightening and hard when you realize that the comfort zone more closely resembles a war zone. That comfortable place is full of broken lives, destroyed dreams, and damaged relationships.
Change: Getting Aware
When we become mindful and aware, we realize that to achieve long-term recovery we will have to change the self-defeating behaviors as well.
In many cases, we know the opposite feeling, action, or attitude is change, but it also opens up the possibility of better outcomes. What are some simple changes to make today?
- Careless becomes careful.
- Denial becomes looking at reality
- Irresponsible becomes responsible.
- If you are demanding, get in line.
___You have a choice each day to do or not do something, say or not say something, cooperate or be dismissive, arrogant or resentful because it is not your way.
For many of us, it was our ways that got us into trouble, so maybe it’s time to listen to others, make changes, and give up fighting to be right.
Make some small incremental changes today; become invested in bettering your life, don’t relapse, and see if changing isn’t something that no longer sounds scary, but exciting.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart