Change – at the heart of addiction recovery 

Recovery from addiction is not merely being abstinent. It requires change – change in our thinking, behaviour, attitudes and lifestyle. For this change to occur, there has to be a desire for change. 

Change happens unceasingly around us. It happens in nature all the time. The sun rises and sets. The trees sprout branches, leaves and fruit and then shed leaves and grow again. Rivers are forever flowing and at any point they are not the same. 

As humans, we need to constantly to adapt and grow, or we shall perish. Carl Rogers believed that all living organisms have a tendency toward growth, and that as people we strive to actualize our inherent potential.

However, addicts develop lots of inertia. They resist change. Change appears as an onerous task or too scary. That’s why they need to be pushed – either by circumstances, or a court order or pressure from family members. In a rehab, this is facilitated by structured interventions.

For instance, an addict or alcoholic may have stopped drinking or using drugs, but if you look closely at the change, it is a process that takes time. He or she probably at first attempted to stop but failed a couple of times, underwent withdrawal, resisted cravings and relapse, walked through the cunning walls of denial, finally decided to really stop, actually stopped and then began to unlearn old ideas and habits and developed new coping mechanisms that included a brand new lifestyle and companions. 

Change doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process. Psychologist James Prochaska and his colleagues studied people who successfully made positive changes and identified following stages:

Pre-contemplation

The individual denies having a problem and has no intention of changing his or her behavior. They might be demoralized and resist talking about their problem because they cannot see (or admit) the problem, or there doesn’t seem to be a solution.

Contemplation

“I want to stop feeling so miserable.” The person now acknowledges his or her problem and wonders about the causes and possible solutions. However, they are not yet making a commitment to specific action.

Preparation

The person is planning to take action within the near future. They are making final preparations, and declare publicly their intention to change. They may even have initiated a few small changes already, but have not necessarily resolved their ambivalence.

Action

This is obviously a stage of getting busy. The changes are now more visible to others and receive the most recognition.

Maintenance

Action is only the beginning of real change. This is the period where the changes are incorporated and is also the time to be alert to the risk of relapse.

Termination

The former problem no longer presents a temptation or threat, and the process of change is somewhat complete. (We know in the case of some changes, like addiction, that there is no “cure” and the process of change needs to continue in order to be effective).

 

Change – an exciting journey

Change means progress, not perfection. It is a process of development toward an undefined goal. There will be “stuck points” or even stages of regression, but as long as overall there is a forward movement, it is fine and worth the effort.

Recovery from addiction is an exciting journey, not a destination of abstinence.

This journey usually begins in a rehab for many addicts and alcoholics. A treatment facility such as Hope Trust in India has a long term inpatient program that helps the individual through the early stages – withdrawal management, denial breaking, family interventions and support, relapse prevention and incorporates the 12 Steps, CBT, Yoga and meditation to help initiate and sustain positive change.