How to Overcome the Ambivalence to Change

Recovery | Lakehouse Recovery Center

If you’re in the first few months of your recovery, you likely experience plenty of ambivalence.  Ambivalence is that experience of having two opposing feelings at the same time. For instance, if you’re in recovery, then you’re doing everything in your power to remain sober. At the same time, you’re likely also experiencing cravings and desires to drink or use again. You may be going back and forth in your mind about whether to stay in recovery or not. It’s easy to know on the one hand that going through detox  and recovery is a good idea, but then a minute later, when you’re suddenly in an argument with your spouse, drinking sounds like a good idea. This ambivalence is highly common, especially in early recovery.

Overcome the Ambivalence

However, there are some steps you can take to help yourself overcome the ambivalence that comes with making such as significant life change. In fact, ultimately resolving this ambivalence will help you remain focused on your recovery versus wavering back and forth between your old life and the sober life you have now.

Below is a list of suggestions for overcoming any ambivalence you may be experiencing:

  1. Ask yourselfIs getting sober possible? This is probably a hard question to answer. However, many addicts comment that the day they knew it was possible to recover was the day they finally got help for themselves. And even if you’re feeling like long-term sobriety isn’t possible, then consider the following: Let’s say you were offered $1 million to stay sober for one day and $10 million to stay sober for one week and $50 million to stay sober for a lifetime. Does recovery seem impossible now? When the circumstances change (as in getting paid large sums of money for sobriety) suddenly recovery becomes possible.
  2. Now that you know it’s possible, what do you need to do to stay sober for one day? Make a list of what you need – services, people, facilities, medication, etc. – in order to stay sober for days, weeks, and years.
  3. Review the pros and cons of addiction and recovery. On the one hand, drinking or drug use has been good for you. It might have brought you relief from emotional pain, a way to ease stress, and a way to feel better about yourself.  At the same time, drinking and drugs might be the reason you’re unemployed or why your wife is no longer living at home or what caused the big fight between you and a close friend. Drinking might have also led to getting DUI’s, financial debt, and legal issues. The pros and cons of drinking can weigh heavy on anyone caught in the cycle of addiction. You might find that by reviewing the pros and cons to substance use, the cons largely outweigh the pros. Yet, it’s also true that you may find that the pros outweigh the cons. By going through this exercise, you can clearly make up your mind about how you want to proceed.

With these three steps, you’re more likely to get clear on your commitment to sobriety. That is, you may realize that recovery and sobriety is the path you want to pursue. Or you might realize that recovery is not what you want at this time. Either way, you can resolve your ambivalence and move forward with your life in the way  you choose.


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