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Complaining or Contemplating Does Not Accomplish Change

Updated on February 7, 2015
Pondering and contemplating are time consuming, draining and can produce stress, uncertainty and sleepless nights.
Pondering and contemplating are time consuming, draining and can produce stress, uncertainty and sleepless nights. | Source

Pondering Is Non-Productive If, You Don't Take Action

When you realize that there is a problem, or you do not like a certain situation in your life, you often have the desire to change something. When you think about something, it might also mean that you are no longer denying that a problem exists and you are willing to do something differently.

The differences might be an action, changing a negative attitude, or you may change your feelings and thoughts about a situation.

Only complaining or commenting on a problem can create a lot of frustration, tension, and guilt. When you appear dissatisfied, but do not take actions to change, this sets up disappointment from others when they attempt to help with a solution, and you reject it by, not following through with it.

If you find yourself in the cycle of only identifying the problem and complaining about it, ask yourself if you:

1. Have the desire to change something

2. Are willing to make the effort to change the problem

When we are ambivalent, we are of two minds...conflicted, torn and uncertain
When we are ambivalent, we are of two minds...conflicted, torn and uncertain | Source

Ambivalence Delays Changes

Ambivalence refers to any situation in which a person holds two opposing attitudes or feelings. It can be as simple as liking and disliking certain aspects of a situation.

It's when we have both positive and negative feelings about someone or something.

Recovery ambivalence is the inconsistency that many of us feel about recovery. On the one hand, we know it is slowly killing us, but we are fearful or angry about discontinuing our use. While we may acknowledge that we need to stop using drugs and alcohol, we may be unsure how to do that.

One part of you likes the idea of change, the other is fearful or angry about changing.

Other people have fears about making a decision because they think they have made so many poor choices or decisions in the past, that they are not capable of making a correct decision specific to their recovery.

Some individuals are just ambivalent, undecided, or of two minds about change. They may have gotten used to:

• Living in unsatisfactory or difficult relationships or

• Unfulfilling jobs

• Living here and there with whoever would take them in

• Making money/not earning money

• Eating at the soup kitchen

• Being in trouble with the law

In active addiction, we learn to live with the conflicts and uncertainties of, not changing and we learned to survive. Survival is about endurance, carrying on, living to tell the tale another day. It can be nothing more than drudgery.

Ambivalence holds us back.  Merely thinking about the issue does not resolve or change it
Ambivalence holds us back. Merely thinking about the issue does not resolve or change it | Source

When Reluctance to Change Is Evident, Ask Yourself

Anyone who has remained undecided about recovery knows how frustrating this can be; not just for themselves but for family and friends who continue to watch them spiral out of control in their addiction, start experiencing more severe consequences, or begin to have worsening health concerns.

Ambivalence can keep an individual stuck for years, running the risk of overdose, serious legal issues, or in some cases, early death due to continued drug and alcohol use. If you are ambivalent, ask yourself:

• What do I get out of staying the same?

• What would be enough incentive to prompt change in my actions?

• What might I learn through the process of change?

• What might be the benefits to me of change?

• What are my feelings about changing?

• What efforts are necessary to change this situation?

• What is my hesitation in changing?

• Why am I reluctant to change?

• What are my fears about changing?

• What outcomes could I anticipate getting if I changed?

• What benefits would I anticipate getting if I changed?

• What would making changes cost me: financially, physically, mentally and emotionally?

• How much time, energy, and effort would I have to put into changing?

Do you have people you turn to for help with major decisions in your life, and do you use them?

See results

The Answers Are Within You

With your answers, you can determine some of your resistances. At this point, you have to decide if continuing to take the opportunity for further change is something that you want.

Then you have to determine if you are capable of putting forth the energy needed to accomplish the change, or continue experiencing the possible adverse outcomes that you have gotten in the past by, not changing.

Unlearning and Overcoming Reluctance to Change

If you remember that habits, addiction, and self-defeating behaviors are learned; it can help you frame unlearning and changing from a different perspective.

Complicating the unlearning is that many of our actions are mechanical or habituated. In other words, the predictable, knee-jerk reaction, the way “I've always been” attitudes to life.

If, on the other hand, you decide that you do want to change or experience further changes, there can still be some predictable barriers to changing:

• You want to change but do not know how to change.

• You do not wish to change enough to do the work required to change.

• You think if you say you want to change, that should be enough.

• You think if you do change, people might expect more changes.

• You think that your changes will never be good enough.

Assess and analyze the problem and find workable solutions
Assess and analyze the problem and find workable solutions | Source

Changing Is About Problem Solving

While the answers are within you; marshaling the resolve and motivation to change or overcoming your fears about change may be the hard parts. There is a simple solution.

Take any problem, break it up into its parts, and see if it does not become less fearful and more readily accomplished. If you do not know how to change something, but genuinely want to change, ask others or research achieving change. Create a Resources for Change list.

My Resources for Change

1. Facilitators

2. Counselors

3. Peers

4. Sponsors/accountability partners

5. People in recovery supportive meetings

6. Knowledgeable family and friends

7. Internet research into changing

Looking at the list, you see that you do have a lot of resources to ask. Not all of them will have an accurate solution for your particular change because they have not had to change that aspect of themselves, or they may not think they know enough to help anyone else. Don't give up on finding useful solutions. You know that you would ask multiple people for solutions if it involved your use, so you have to be just as diligent in asking for help with change.

If you ask enough people, there is sure to be someone who had a similar problem and had a solution.

World Wide Help and Model of Change

Searching for “how to change” on the Internet may give you too many perspectives, and you can get lost in all the choices. Again, be aware of what you specifically want to change and keep narrowing down your focus on the Internet to be efficient.

Most Effective Model of Change

Two researchers named Prochaska and DiClemente developed the Stages of Change Model; its five phases describe the processes that are useful for any behavioral change.

Stages of Change is not a "three weeks to..." process. There isn't a time frame for change, nor for the different stages. Some people stay in one phase or stage longer than others, and some people find that they have moved beyond the first stage at their initial introduction to the process.

Each stage moves us from not even willing to discuss the issue to maintaining the changes and enhancing them.

Precontemplation attitudes prevent us from changing
Precontemplation attitudes prevent us from changing | Source

Defining the Stages of Change


In this stage, there are no thoughts about changing. And, if others bring up an issue that is troubling to them in our behaviors, we react poorly, by:

• Refusing to see a problem

• Minimizing the effects of the problem

• Making those talking about it, THE problem

• Defending our right to be as we are

This stage is marked by common statements like:

"I don't see any reason for me to change."

"I like the way things are."

"You can't tell me what to do, you don't understand my situation."

When the excuses and justifications stop working, many people move to the next stage.

At some point, we end up saying, "Yes" or "No"
At some point, we end up saying, "Yes" or "No" | Source


When we contemplate anything, it means that we start thinking about it. In the case of addiction versus recovery, we might start looking at alternatives such as:

• "If I quit using, I might feel physically better."

• "When I don't use, I have more money."

• "My family invites me to functions when I'm sober."

Contemplation lets people see the options for one choice over another. For instance, "If I don't use and have more money, I could buy a car." If a car is a desired goal, then the individual might be motivated to recover.

Considering the options and repercussions for staying the same or changing are part of the Contemplation Stage. People start weighing the perceived outcomes of both.

• "If I don't stop using, I can't get a car."

• "If I stop using, my family will no longer be mad."

• "If I stop using, my grades might improve."

• "If I don't stop using, I might get fired."

In several of those, there are external motivations for change including the family and the employer. Others are more internally motivated; something that the individual will receive that is a personal benefit, such as the grades. In the last example, both the individual and their family factor.

Motivation does not have to be solely external or internal. Sometimes, outside influence moves people from contemplation to action. Other times, the incentive to change is driven by the individual's realization that there are better personal alternatives accomplished with a change. However, any change takes motivation, a plan and then the determination to follow through.

This move, from thinking about change to being determined to make a change is the third stage.

Making ourselves accountable with time specific changes reinforces the benefits of change
Making ourselves accountable with time specific changes reinforces the benefits of change | Source

Preparation or Determination

When individuals are determined to change, they create definitive plans that will accomplish their changes. A simple way to reinforce the determination is to make "I will" instead of "I will try to" statement.

For instance:

"I will stop this behavior on...", and then set a quit date.

"I will go back to recovery support meetings on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights."

"I will go to bed by midnight."

" I will have $50 deducted from my paycheck for my retirement account."

When these concrete, time-sensitive plans are in place, people move to Action.

Actions are more than talking about the problem; they are doing something about the issue
Actions are more than talking about the problem; they are doing something about the issue | Source


While the statements are positive and reinforcing, without follow through, they are just good intentions. Actions, demonstrate your changes.

Reinforcing these actions with statements about how you feel and what are your different thoughts from these changes encourages you to keep doing these actions. You can demonstrate evidence of your changes with statements like:

"I quit using on Tuesday, and I feel ___."

"At the recovery support meeting, I learned ____."

"I went to bed at midnight and the next day; I felt ___."

"I have added $200 to my retirement in four weeks, and I feel ___."

With positive reinforcement of the changes, the next hurdle for many people is maintaining the changes.


Maintaining changes is not always easy. Many outside factors determine if certain changes can take place according to the plan. While saving is encouraged, if there is an emergency and there was no contingency plan for them, the retirement monies may have to be allocated to the unanticipated urgent situation.

There are also those in long-term recovery who do not anticipate unforeseen triggers and find it impossible to maintain their recovery. The unexpected death of a loved one has derailed many people; even those with double-digit time in recovery. If this occurs, hopefully, the individual does not revert to precontemplation; that they have sufficient evidence and move to transcendence and begin actions to regain their recovery.

Maintaining is another form of change; looking for additional reinforcing thoughts, feelings or benefits to improve the original motivators.

Sometimes when an objective is attained, like better grades, there is seemingly little incentive to address this topic again. However, adding further incentive like "graduate school is now a possibility" means that the individual refocuses on improving the original goal.

Stages of Change

Not the Status Quo

So maintaining is not just about the status quo. It is not becoming complacent. It is like a car or house. They are both improved, and their value enhanced by maintenance, so is recovery.

Taking responsibility for our lives, making changes and then further enhancing those choices is the freedom found in recovery
Taking responsibility for our lives, making changes and then further enhancing those choices is the freedom found in recovery | Source

Authored by Marilyn L. Davis for the express use at North House, 1990-2011; copyright transferred to TIERS, 2012

Registration Number: TXu 1-797-964: No portions of this may be reprinted, copied, or used without permission of the author or acknowledgment of authorship

© 2013 Marilyn L Davis


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    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 4 years ago from Georgia

      Hi, I appreciate the difficulty of going anything alone. it's discouraging and feaful. We can be uncertain of how to change or heal without some guidance.

      Have you explored social service options in your area for help with your situation? I think a good place to start to find appropriate help is with a call to the United Way. They maintain a data base for all types of services. Marilyn