Making a significant life change is not easy. For some, it will be the hardest thing they will ever do. For others, it might be difficult but they know how to find resources to help them get through it. We are all on a continuum with respect to the level of fear we have towards change.
One of the greatest changes to make is ending an addiction. This disease is not only psychological, but it is essentially a lifestyle. If you have experienced addiction, then you know that your behaviors, thoughts, choices, and feelings all contributed towards your substance use.
Essentially, becoming sober is becoming someone new.
Because of this, there’s going to be a process to making that change. You might be thinking about becoming sober, but you may not be ready.
You might have made the decision but you’re still figuring out how you’re going to do it. Or you might not even be considering it at all. Many recovering addicts who think back to a time in their life when they were using will say that they didn’t want to stop.
Change is a process. The Stages of Change Model outlines that process. Although typically this model addresses the process of ending an addiction, it’s essentially a roadmap for most types of transformation. The stages and their definitions are listed below. They can be used as a map if you or someone you care for is attempting to make such a transformation.
At this stage, an addict may not recognize there is a problem. There are no thoughts about making any change at all. If anyone points out a concern, anyone in this stage would feel that that he or she is exaggerating. The impact of the problem has not become conscious and there is no consideration to make any adjustment to one’s life.
Adults in this stage are willing to consider that there might be a concern. However, their ambivalence is high. They haven’t made a firm decision to change; rather, they know that the drinking or drug use is problematic and are willing to look at pros and cons to sobriety as well as seek sober help.
At this stage, a counselor or therapist might accompany an individual through a risk-reward analysis. Together, they might examine previous attempts to change in the past, causes for failure, and benefits and barriers to change.
The hallmark of this stage is that a decision to change has been made. Although there continues to be some ambivalence, the determination to change is strong enough to outweigh any obstacles. There is a serious attempt to change with a realistic look at anticipatory problems, concrete solutions, and a sensible plan for seeking sober help and achieving recovery.
As the energy of determination continues to build, an individual takes action and chooses to implement his or her recovery plan. A person might make their commitment to change public by telling friends in order receive external validation for their efforts.
This stage might also include attending support groups, AA meetings, or individual therapy. As a recovery plan succeeds, emotional rewards might also become evident such as self-confidence, happiness, and optimism.
Although a recovery plan is in place and a recovering addict has taken action towards that plan, maintaining sobriety can be challenging. This stage might even include relapse, but the foundation for a sober life is becoming firm.
The person in recovery is becoming more aware of old habits and is growing the ability to make healthier choices. The test of this stage is maintaining the new behavior in order to create a life-long change.
Some clinicians do not include this stage in the Stages of Change model, particularly when applied to substance abuse. They believe that once there is an addiction, there will always be one and that the stage of maintenance is ongoing.
However, other clinicians see this stage a time when the individual is no longer tempted or threatened by any substances. He or she has complete confidence in his or her sobriety.
If you’re thinking about getting sober, changing careers, or making a life transformation that feels intimidating, getting an idea where you are in relationship to that change might be helpful. The Stages of Change model can do just that.
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