Recovery Roadblock: Overcoming Your Resistance to Change

Recovery Roadblock: Overcoming Your Resistance to Change

If you are considering going into recovery, or if you have recently started a recovery program, it is obvious that you are ready to make significant changes in your life. You have the desire and the commitment to cease unhealthy substance use habits and regain all aspects of your well-being: physical, emotional and spiritual. And yet, you may find yourself struggling to make the lifestyle changes that you sincerely want and need to make in order to reach your goals.

Change is hard, especially when it involves changing behaviors that were once considered to be rewarding or pleasurable. Even though you know it is best to turn your back on a self-destructive substance use habit, you must combat your own resistances. You may naturally resist leaving a lifestyle that has become familiar and comfortable to you. You may be resistant to facing uncertainty; or you may worry about, and therefore resist, the possible pain of withdrawal. You also are likely to resist facing head-on the very personal emotional challenges that your substance use helped you deny or avoid.

It is good and appropriate to want to feel alive, to feel energized and highly focused. Fortunately, you do not have to use substances to have these feelings.-Rita Milios
In addition, you may worry that a post-substance use lifestyle will feel boring. How can you return to your old, ordinary life after having experienced the highly charged, edgy, adrenaline-filled existence of substance use? That is actually a legitimate concern. It is good and appropriate to want to feel alive, to feel energized and highly focused. Fortunately, you do not have to use substances to have these feelings. In fact, there are many healthy, positive ways to obtain the same mental and emotional “high” that many people are searching for when they use substances.

Engaging in pleasurable activities or sports, experiencing deep gratitude or appreciation, finding inner peace and self-acceptance through meditation, self-awareness therapies or other practices, and giving of yourself by helping others – all these are proven ways to increase the same endorphins and “feel good” chemicals in the brain that addicts seek to stimulate with substance use.

But unlike substance use, with these options the positive effects do not diminish over time, and you have the added bonus of not having to put chemical poisons into your body. So, as you can see, you don’t have to give up the positive experiences that you were seeking. You just have to find more appropriate and healthy ways to initiate them.

Pros and Cons of Recovery Treatment

Let’s examine a list of pros and cons regarding recovery treatment to see if it makes sense for you.

Pros

  • You begin on a path toward healing vs. continuing down a path of self-destructive behavior
  • You have access to support and guidance as you navigate your new path
  • You can learn new strategies for living sober and gain new tools to help you
  • You have others to whom you can become accountable, so that you are less likely to “cheat” on you commitment
  • You learn from others’ experiences and share with others, gaining confidence and self-esteem
  • Your health will likely improve
  • Your relationships will likely improve
  • Your self-esteem and self-acceptance will likely improve
  • Your career or work performance will likely improve

Cons

  • You have to change a habit that has come to feel natural and comfortable
  • You have to trust and be vulnerable when that is likely not something that is easy for you to do
  • You have to commit to honesty and truthfulness vs. manipulation and avoidance to address problems
  • You may have to endure some physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms as your substance is being released from your body
  • Depending on the type of program you choose (in-patient, out-patient, 12-Step, etc.), you may have to make adjustments to your home or work schedule to accommodate your program
  • You will need to create new non-using friendships and let go of relationships with people who are still using

Considering the lists above, which set (Pros or Cons) best addresses the goals that you have for yourself, your life, your future?

It’s Not What You are Changing, But What You are Changing To

One more thing; as you are contemplating the Pros and Cons of recovery and treatment, ask yourself this question:

What is your end goal?

We all know that the obvious goal in recovery treatment is to stop using. But that just describes the desired change in behavior. What is the motivation behind the behavior change? What in your life is important enough to you that it is worth the effort you put into getting sober?

Think about your:

  • Relationships – Has using affected your relationships with spouse, family, or friends?
  • Health – Are you aware of any health problems related to your substance use? 

  • Legal – Have you had any arrests or other brushes with the law because of your substance use or because of related behaviors?
  • Financial – Has substance use contributed to money problem? Have you lost a job or had to take time off work because of your substance use? Has money that should have been spent on your livelihood and/or the livelihood of your family been spent on purchasing your drug of choice?

Creating A Change Plan

All of the factors above provide good motivation for fully committing to a recovery program. The Change Plan below, adapted from a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism resource publication, can help you individualize and formalize your own desires and motivations. Think of it as a contract with yourself.

My Change Plan Worksheet


  1. Specific changes I want to make regarding substance use are:



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  2. Steps I am going to take to make these changes happen are:



    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________


  3. Possible Roadblocks are:



    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
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  4. Steps I am going to take to address and overcome these Roadblocks are:



    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________


  5. I will know that I have reached my goals when:



    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
    _______________________________________________________________________________________________
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By creating a sensible, achievable Change Plan, you can overcome your personal roadblocks. You can then reach not only your recovery goals, but also your greater goals for a healthy, vibrant life that you can feel good about.

Download your own Change Plan Worksheet and use it to overcome your personal recovery roadblocks.




Image Courtesy of Unsplash/Julia Caesar