What Role Does Motivation Play in Addiction Recovery?

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Think about some changes that you want to make in your life. Maybe you want to start dieting, increase your exercise, start a new hobby, or seek addiction treatment. What if you aren't sure if you even need to make changes?  It could be that someone else has made statements about the modifications you need to make. A parent, spouse, or friend might have made comments about how much you drink, but you don't think your drinking is a problem. Addiction treatment often uses the stages of change framework to understand a client’s motivation for treatment.

Stages of Change

This model consists of five official stages and one unofficial. The stages of change are circular and fluid. Meaning that a person can cycle through any of the previous phases at any given time. The stages are:

  1. Pre-contemplation. In this stage, a problem is not even on your radar. It could be that others have noticed that you might need to do something about your drinking or drug use. Denial is a critical component of pre-contemplation. Within the next six months, you are not ready to make any changes. Maybe you had attempted to cut back before but were unsuccessful, and your confidence in sobriety is low. Try writing yourself a letter from the perspective of those who have told you your behavior was a problem. This might create an emotional shift to point out discrepancies between actual practice and desired behavior.
  2. Perhaps there might be some truth to what others have been saying. At this stage, you are considering that drinking or drug use is causing problems. Contemplation is characterized by ambivalence. You might tell yourself, “I know I have a problem, but I'm not sure what I can do about it." Think about New Year's resolutions of losing weight and hitting the gym. The desire is to lose weight is present, but the motivation to act might not be. Creating pros and cons list might help tip the scale toward sobriety. SMART Recovery has an excellent cost-benefit analysis worksheet that can help identify reasons to change or not. Change is hard.
  3. Congratulations! In the preparation stage, you have made the decision to become sober within a month. You have started taking steps like calling treatment centers and researching about addiction. This is where you want to create a plan with initial, small attainable goals. Goals that you can achieve immediately help boost confidence. Maybe you cut back on drinking or drug use. Perhaps you gathered a list of treatment centers and decided to call some of them. Read our blog on choosing the right treatment center here. The proper treatment center can make a huge difference in your success.
  4. Congratulations again! You have committed to at least one day of sobriety and have been sober less than 180 days. You are practicing the skills and change plan that you have implemented. You might say, "I feel better not drinking/using, but it's hard to feel frustrated. Many people exhibit enthusiasm and are motivated in the action stage. Supportive people are vital in helping verbally reinforce your behavior changes. Maybe your therapist commented on your application of skills learned during group therapy. Or, your family has noticed that you are more engaged.
  5. Aptly called maintenance, in this stage, you have been committed to your sobriety for at least six months. By this time, you have long returned home from residential treatment and are actively working your recovery. You are confident in your ability to remain sober long-term. Continued therapy is an excellent idea to maintain your dedication to sobriety. You might have some relapse triggers arise that your therapist can help you maneuver. It is beneficial to your continued success in identifying the high-risk situation, internal and external triggers, and coping strategies. An example might be "At work, sometimes my coworkers go out for drinks. I want to go, but the restaurant makes my mouth water, and I think about how good a drink might taste. I could order a nonalcoholic drink instead. Or, I could confide in a trusted coworker to be my support." The situation is going out after work. The external trigger is the restaurant, and the internal trigger is the thought and watering mouth. The coping strategy is ordering an alternative drink or asking for support.
  6. This is the unofficial stage of change. Relapse happens but does not have to. Relapse is a return to the old behavior. It occurs after the new behavior has been established either in the action or maintenance stage. Some differentiate between a relapse and a lapse. A lapse would be a one time or short-term slip. Clients who have relapsed need support as they likely feel ashamed, disappointed, or frustrated that they "fell off the wagon." Behavior change can be viewed as peaks and valleys. The ridges are the high points and the valleys the lows. It is in the valleys where learning and growth happen most. Look at the situation, moving backward from the moment of use to discover how you got to that point. What are the barriers to resuming sobriety?  What is your motivation level?  What coping strategies have worked?  What hasn’t worked in terms of coping skills?

Motivation is a good predictor of treatment outcome. It is the reasons, desire, or willingness one has for doing something. Increasing motivation could be as simple as identifying your values. If one of your values is family and your drinking or drug use has gotten in the way, you might feel conflicted.

Most residential treatment centers operate at the action stage of change. Adept clinicians will recognize which stage you are in at any given time. While in a residential facility like The Ho tai Way – Recovery for Women, total abstinence from alcohol and drugs is expected. You might have come to us at the behest of a loved one and are not quite ready to quit using or drinking. We will patiently and empathetically work with you to create goals that meet your needs.

The Ho tai Way – Recovery for Women is here to help you heal from addiction. If you or someone you know needs recovery, contact the admissions team. Call (714) 581-3974.