Drug Treatment and the ABC’s of Change

Drug Treatment | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comYou’re likely in drug treatment, or considering it, because you want to change your life. Perhaps you already know that the change you want to achieve isn’t only going to require ending your substance use, but it’s also going to mean changing your (A) attitudes, (B) behavior, and (C) cognition (thinking). These are known as the ABC’s of change because if you can change these three parts of you, in addition to bringing your drug use or drinking to an end, you’ll find transformation.

The wonderful book Pathways to Recovery explains the ABC’s of change in great detail. However, in this article, an brief explanation of attitude, behavior, and cognition will be provided. Below you’ll also find what you might to add to your drug treatment experience in order to find the change you’re looking for.


According to an online dictionary, an attitude is “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”. The attitude we have towards ourselves and our recovery is essential. It can support our path to sobriety or it can derail us. For instance, according to Pathways to Recovery , two important attitudes to have regarding your desire to change is hope and courage. Both hope and courage can bring positive feelings to our recovery and nourish our need to change.


It’s not just any sort of behavior that change requires. Behavior that is both healthy (versus the unhealthy behavior you might have engaged in during your addiction) as well as courageous. For instance, in order to create change, you’ve got to step out of your comfort zone. You’ve got to stretch yourself. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about going back to school, forming an intimate relationship, or returning to work, but feel fearful. If you’re feel the desire and feel that you’re ready, don’t let fear stand in your way. You can begin to take the steps you need to break through your protective bubble to create the change you want. Behaving in new ways can create change.


Even when you’re no longer using drugs or alcohol, there are still patterns of thought that might have led to the drinking in the first place that are often still in full swing. It’s the reason for a term used among the AA community – the dry drunk. The negative connotation to this phrase comes from the fact that family, friends, and co-workers must still bear the irascibility, arrogance, and destructive behavior of a recovering alcoholic. Although the substance abuse has come to an end, the destructive thinking might still be present. For this reason, changing your thinking can be a pivotal way to change your life.

The kinds of thinking patterns that are common among new recovering addicts are:

  • Failure to put oneself first before others
  • Dishonesty about the addiction, life problems, and dysfunctional relationships
  • Unrealistic expectations of others and of themselves
  • Tendency to blame others or external circumstances when they are accountable
  • Easily triggered by others’ comments and the tendency to take things personally
  • A failure to live up to one’s promises and commitments
  • The inability to deal constructively with challenges
  • Lacking maturity
  • The inability to fulfill obligations

One effective form of treatment to address these thinking patterns is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In fact, CBT can also help change your attitude and your behavior as well. Essentially CBT aims to change behavior by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that addresses unhealthy patterns of thought that lead to making poor choices. CBT also provides healthier coping mechanisms to help manage challenging emotions, triggering life circumstances, and stress, replacing any old methods of coping that may have furthered dysfunction and stress. CBT can also enhance the effectiveness of any drug treatment medication that you might be taking.

These are the ABC’s of change. By creating change in your attitude, your behavior, and your thoughts, you can create the great transformation you might be looking for.


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