By: Marilyn L. Davis
“Meaningful, lasting change only happens when the pain of the status quo finally outstrips the fear or the anticipated pain of the change we seek.”― David Taylor-Klaus.
I Understand Not Making Changes
I used drugs and alcohol to cope, and that worked until it didn’t work anymore. My solution? Add more. And when that didn’t work? More and more to the mix. The same old, same old, just more.
Still, I kept on using. And there are countless people out there who keep adding more and more, too. They know it’s not working, but don’t have a solution to the problem, so they stay stuck on the fence and can’t make a decision to quit, or they are just ambivalent.
Some individuals are undecided or of two minds about quitting and change. They know their lives are a mess:
- Unfulfilling relationships
- Living with whoever will take them in for a few days
- Know the soup kitchen hours
- Work in day labor to get enough money for drugs that day
- Continue to get in trouble with the law
But even with their messy lives, they still don’t know if they can succeed at recovery.
What I’d like them to know is that recovery offers us a chance to live, enjoying the rewards of our efforts and opportunities to do more than exist or keep our head above water.
Changing the Status Quo
I can’t take credit for stopping on my own. In 1988, five caring individuals from Brenau University staged an intervention on me. They gave me an ultimatum; go to treatment that night or be fired. They also told me that they cared for me and believed that I could find the resolve to accept the help offered by treatment.
I think this combination of boundaries on behavior and demonstrating faith gave me the resolve, discipline, and desire to receive the help that allowed this intervention to work. It’s been over 32 years without a relapse. I still consider this help the most important I have ever received.
Are You Afraid of Change?
If you don’t have people encouraging you to make changes, or you’re scared you’ll fail, let me encourage you.
But I also want you to ask yourself some questions about your reluctance to change. When this reluctance to change is evident, ask yourself:
2. Is there any incentive to change in my actions?
3. What might I learn through the process of change?
4. Which benefits can I expect if I change?
5. What are my feelings about changing?
To help you answer the questions above, consider:
- Weighted or straightforward pros and cons to help with your answers.
- A list all of the motivators: family, job, health, or fear of legal repercussions.
- Understand that changing is a process; using goals and sub-goals to move you towards the goal of long-term recovery is a start.
- Again, make that list: freedom, better relationships, no more jail, or whatever you decide is a benefit is what counts.
- Write about your your fears, anger, and frustrations about changing.
Change Must Be Personal
When you are answering the following, make sure that you are answering these from your perspective. While we can be motivated by external factors, and many of us use them in our early recovery, actual change happens on the inside. For me, I changed to keep my job, but the rewards of those changes helped my self-esteem, so the next changes were so I would feel better about myself, not just my job status.
1. Do I have an outside motivation to change?
As I said, my first motivation was keeping my job. For you, it may be a job, probation, pending criminal charges, threats from family, or other external reasons.
2. What will my changes cost me?
There’s going to be fear in changing, and some people aren’t willing to pay the price of being uncomfortable during the change. Others, like drug dealers or high-end prostitutes, would have an actual financial cost if they went from one lifestyle to another legitimate job.
3. Are there attitudes that hold me back?
Some people think it’s weak to ask for help. Not asking for guidance and support from people who’ve been in recovery is not weak; it’s showing good judgment and being sensible.
As I said, my first motivation was keeping my job. For you, it may be a job, probation, pending criminal charges, threats from family, or other external reasons. With your answers, you can determine some of your resistance. At this point, you have to decide if continuing to take the opportunity for further change is something that you want and if you are capable of putting forth the energy needed to accomplish the transformation.
It’s Okay to Be Ambivalent to Change, Just Do It Anyway
When we talk about ambivalence, we are of two minds. One part wants the changes, and another part of our emotional and mental make-up is scared of change. That’s okay, list all of your feelings and why you feel that way.
Most people, even those in early recovery, know what others are going to say about recovery. You have sat in enough groups, lectures, and meetings to have an idea of everyone else’s answers to the questions, but this is your recovery. Sometimes your perspective on a solution will differ from treatment, your support network, or your sponsor or accountability partner.
Most people in recovery feel ambivalent or disinterested in change at times. Things are going better in their lives; they are not in as much trouble either at home, work, or the judicial system, and they have a little money in their pocket, and they wonder if they have to make any more changes. They are comfortable and have hit a plateau.
These plateaus are predictable, and you may find that your desire to change is still there but that you are satisfied, for the moment, with the changes to date. What you may be missing is the numerous other opportunities waiting for you with just a few more changes.
Asking other participants, your sponsor/accountability partner, or your facilitator and counselor what they did to refocus and start making more changes will give you an idea of how many people have experienced these plateaus.
What you want to accomplish is to stop being ambivalent or disinterested in change. The danger in resting on your laurels is that you can become complacent, bored, or unconcerned about additional changes.
Recovery is Not a Static or Fixed Thing
There is a 12 Step based saying, “Recovery is a journey, not a destination.” Therefore, if you are reluctant to change anything else because life is good now, you may just be shortchanging yourself. Additional changes could and probably will enhance and enrich your life just that much more.
Granted, no one knows what the future will bring, but if you have experienced better outcomes in your present because of your changes, common sense tells you that you will continue to experience the same with additional changes. Click To Tweet
Writing and recovery heal the heart.
What changes did you have to make even after you stopped using? How did you overcome your ambivalence? How can you encourage someone today?
I believe that each person has a unique way of conveying the same information. Given that some of us are visual teachers and others are audio learners, we need more people writing from their perspective to reach those struggling with their addictions. Consider a guest post today.
How I became an advocate for recovery: Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate is available on Amazon