Change is a common word that most people use every day, and in many cases, the word itself rarely implies someone or something is undergoing a complete transformation. However, change is marked by a total metamorphosis for the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. A similar sentiment has also been suggested regarding the dramatic shift from addiction to recovery.
Unfortunately, even small changes can be daunting for many in this situation. For those who experience a chemical and emotional dependence on drugs or alcohol, a sea change is needed and may feel as though it is nearly impossible.
The ultimate impetus for any form of personal change is unearthing, fostering, and maintaining the motivation to do so. Some change requires little or no incentive on the part of the living being—just as the case of a biological process (e.g., the caterpillar-butterfly transformation) or it occurs out of one’s control purely by accident that we could not have prevented or predicted.
But addiction recovery does not reflect either of these circumstances. Motivation is needed to instigate change, and it doesn’t happen by accident or by the biological rules of nature. We as beings must enact a decision, and in doing so, find the courage instrumentally to see it through to fruition.
In essence, motivation is the fundamental desire for recovery to occur and must be promoted and maintained throughout the recovery process. Without this desire, failure is likely imminent. Moreover, some individuals in recovery start motivated but then experience a lack of resolve as time wears on, and new obstacles and challenges appear.
Still, others are coaxed for forced into recovery, having little or no motivation but, over time, somehow find the strength within themselves to put their nose to the grindstone, so to speak, and accept that change is necessary. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClimente devised the most widely-accepted framework for this model in their book “Changing for Good” (1994).
Depending on interpretation, the Stages of Change Model is a set of five or six stages that “assesses an individual’s readiness to act on a new healthier behavior, and provides strategies, or processes of change to guide the individual.” The six stages of change include the following:
Stage 1: Pre-contemplation
Pre-contemplation is the first stage of change and requires little more than the individual to realize that a problem may exist. Still, they have little incentive to do anything about it, including considering the possibility that a change is not only desirable but needed. Sadly, many persons who find themselves in the throes of addiction are at this stage perpetually and will never leave it.
Rather than taking steps toward change, pre-contemplators tend to wallow in their mire of existence, making excuses and justifying their behaviors and decisions. Even when faced with a cost-benefit analysis, individuals in this stage maintain stubbornness and refuse to concede that their lives could be profoundly improved without using intoxicating substances.
Stage 2: Contemplation
People in the contemplation stage have become more self-aware and have begun to admit their behaviors and decisions are destructive to themselves and those around them. However, they remain unsure whether a change is truly worth the effort and may prolong their start dates for no justifiable reason, contending they will quit at a certain point in the future.
In this stage, however, the individual starts to think of change as a real possibility, and moving toward this conclusion, the conscious desire to recover from addiction begins to solidify. The person also begins to understand that substance abuse’s cons outweigh the benefits and that no change is not an option.
Stage 3: Preparation
In the preparation stage, the person starts to locate resources and enacts plans to receive treatment. They may begin by contacting their insurance company and addiction treatment centers and discussing long-term treatment options with family and employers. They may also begin attending support groups, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous.
During this phase, despite their efforts, some people may encounter legitimate treatment barriers such as limited flexibility regarding work or school, insurance coverage issues, or financial constraints. Many of those who find assistance, however, enter stage four.
Stage 4: Action
The Action stage consists of executing plans prepared for in Stage 3. These plans promote positive mental, emotional, and physical change through a practical immersion in addiction recovery therapies combined with total abstinence from substances. Most intensive treatment programs feature an integrated approach that incorporates counseling, experiential therapies, group support, aftercare planning, and other evidence-based methodologies to aid in the recovery process.
Also, individuals in recovery begin to explore new hobbies and activities as replacements for pursuits previously centered on using a substance. These may be discovered in the context of treatment or in the real world after treatment has been completed. For example, a person may find that they enjoy painting and hone their skills rather than engage in other activities that are triggers for or more conducive to substance abuse.
Keep in mind that plans for this form of change do not have to be perfect. Waiting complacently for a supposedly ideal, grand opportunity to finally make all these changes will probably amount to nothing more than dissatisfaction, doubt, and disappointment when things don’t go exactly as expected.
Stage 5: Maintenance
During the maintenance stage, plans initiated in stage four are fully enacted to promote and sustain sobriety. Without the ability to step back and achieve perspective on one’s progress, accompanied by a sincere wish to amend any errors as they arise, individuals in this stage ultimately risk reverting to previous ways of thinking and behaving. A relapse can transpire during any stage but becomes an increasing danger during the maintenance stage.
And while this constant vigilance may seem daunting initially, as time goes on, it becomes increasingly natural, and ultimately, more easily sustainable and enjoyable. Recovery is an ongoing and potentially lifelong process that takes nothing less than imperturbable courage to obtain the reward.
Stage 6: Termination
The final stage, termination, is achieved when a person’s lifestyle is transformed entirely. When the previous life has been broken down, a person can now rebuild their life from the ground up, if necessary, and exclude the ability to engage in substance abuse. Once this is achieved, allowing substance abuse back into one’s life requires another breaking down of sorts, requiring significant effort and garnering no identifiable reward.
In stage six, the individual is now free to live in the present and serve their own best interests, not those of drugs or alcohol. The person is exuding the confidence and fortitude need to safeguard against relapse. They are now a fully transformed, actualized sober individual who is no longer an active addict or alcoholic—they are someone who has, in essence, beat a life-threatening disease.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers are specialized addiction treatment centers that offer multifaceted programs in various formats, including residential treatment and partial hospitalization programs.
Therapeutic services included in our programs are clinically proven. They include cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, group therapy, mindfulness therapy, and all the support and education individuals need to achieve abstinence and maintain long-term sobriety and wellness.