Change Is Inevitable, but Positive Behavior Change Takes Work
Change is rarely something a person does willingly. It’s human nature that doing things in a certain way becomes comfortable. A person tends to choose familiar over the unfamiliar and the known over the unknown. Even when a person is doing things that aren’t healthy, those things are at least familiar. However, change is a constant part of life. Only the rate and the kind of change ever varies. In other words, with or without recovery, there will be change. Without recovery, change will be a spiraling journey as the symptoms and the severity of a disorder worsen over time. With recovery, change takes place as a result of improvement by resolving problems and managing symptoms. The process of changing addictive behaviors is one part of recovery which brings about a journey into health.
Positive change will not happen without your involvement. In other words, positive change will not happen to you. It will happen because of the effort you make. As the sayings go, “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” Also, “If you always do what you’ve always done then you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten, and you’ll always be where you’ve always been.” Change takes place little by little, day by day, one day at a time, one step at a time.
The Stages of Change
Everyone has the potential and ability to change. Studies have found that people who modify their behaviors share similar experiences in the process. In other words, they proceed through certain common stages as these changes take place. Additionally, a person in recovery also undergoes various “stages of readiness” for change. It is helpful for everyone to learn about the stages of changing behaviors.
The first stage of change is the precontemplation stage. At this stage, you see no problem with your behavior, so you have no intention to make any changes. If you seek professional help, it is because of some external pressure. You may feel manipulated or forced into treatment by the legal system, child protective services, employers, partners, friends, or family.
At the the second stage, the contemplation stage, you recognize there is a problem. You continue to weigh the pros and cons of the behavior you want to change. The third stage is the preparation stage. This is the moment of decision-making. You begin to take steps toward change by identifying realistic and reasonable goals that are consistent with you capabilities, values, and needs. Next comes the action stage, where you actively take steps to change your behavior. Now you’re ready to “do whatever it takes” and you start to engage with a “program of recovery.” The last stage is the maintenance stage, in which you practice the change you’ve learned until they new behavior becomes automatic and you avoid relapse.
The Change Process
A person will not usually go straight from one stage of change to another. Change happens gradually, with one step forward and two steps back, then three steps forward, and one step back. Most importantly, with time the number of steps forward is far greater than the number of steps backward. Changing behaviors takes time and often involves setbacks and relapses. In your change journey, you may even go from the pre-contemplation stage to the contemplation stage to the preparation stage to the action stage, only to go back to preparation.
You could be in the contemplation stage of recognizing a problem and weighing the pros and the cons of changing a behavior with one set of behaviors like Opioid abuse. At the same time, you may be in the action stage for another set of behaviors, such as by getting treatment for depression. A person may also be in separate stages of change with respect to different substances. Stages of change can also vary with each behavioral change within the same diagnosis. While you may be in the action stage with regard to attending 12-step meetings, you could be in the contemplation stage as you continue to weigh the pros and cons of getting a sponsor. A step backwards into relapse can be a learning experience to strengthen your change process by taking action by finally getting a sponsor for addiction to Opioids or any other substance.