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Change? Stay the Same? It's a Choice

Updated on March 12, 2015
You have alternatives and choices in your recovery that you never had in your use;  marshaling the resources within yourself to make changes just takes motivation.
You have alternatives and choices in your recovery that you never had in your use; marshaling the resources within yourself to make changes just takes motivation. | Source

Choices for Change Happen Daily

We change daily; what we change is the selective aspect. Seemingly inconsequential decisions and choices help you see that greater changes work in the same manner.

If you look at the mechanics or mechanism of change, you can see how often people change. Think about a typical day:

  1. You set clothes out last night to wear today; got up this morning and changed your mind and decided to wear something else.
  2. You got to an intersection going to work, saw that there was a traffic problem up ahead, changed your mind, and went another way to work.
  3. You were listening to the radio, enjoying the music and then did not like the next song, so you changed the station until you found something you liked.
  4. A co-worker mentioned a new restaurant, and you changed your mind about what you were having for lunch very quickly.

Therefore, we are capable of changing many things in our lives. So why is it that most of these daily changes are accomplished without all the encouragement, threats, coercion, punishments, and rewards?

Because our ability to change is often selective, we change what we want to change.


Change is a Choice

With inconsequential or unimportant changes, there is rarely any fear or negative connections associated with changing the things mentioned in the examples.

You decided that the other available choices would be more pleasant, a better choice, or enjoyable so you had no problem changing.

There are NO Guarantees


It is when we cannot see that change is going to be better or that we will feel better because of the change, we often balk, resist, or create obstacles to change.

I typically coach individuals in recovery, and I'm often asked if I can guarantee certain outcomes for changes. While I can guarantee that there will be better opportunities for positive rather than negative outcomes, I cannot make guarantees.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that a man will become witty, debonair and get the prom queen because he now has a job. Or, that someone will win the lottery because they are spending money on a ticket rather than drugs. Nor will mothering instincts magically kick in because she is not drunk all the time.

What can happen is that these changes give people an opportunity to learn something new; that he might just experience a non-using relationship, or she can take a parenting class without the fear of nodding off.

The Reasons for Change are Obvious

For many addicts and alcoholics, it is difficult to reconcile the conflicts of knowing that they need to change and then doing the complete opposite. It is frustrating to the addict as well as those associated with them. It's also scary when we realize how much needs changing.

Sometimes thoroughly examining your reasons for doing or not doing something lets you see the aspect of yourself that has prevented you from changing. You can then decide if this reason is still valid to you, or may just be an old idea that you can retire.

Change is, "... the design and construction of new patterns or the re-conceptualization of old ones, to make new, and hopefully more productive, actions possible". ROSABETH MOSS KANTER, The Change Masters

Sometimes the barriers are only an illusion.
Sometimes the barriers are only an illusion. | Source

Stated Barriers and Obstacles


Why Balk at Necessary Changes?

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts". Arnold Bennett

Can you list the obstacles, discomforts or barriers that prevent you from changing? There are not right or wrong answers for this, and you should not edit them thinking some of them are dumb or stupid.

  1. You may be concerned with the consequences of the change – what if people do not like the changed you?
  2. You do not want to be uncomfortable trying to change the actions and thoughts.
  3. You disagree with the family, friends, and others in recovery if they mention some things you need to change and create obstacles and barriers when these topics come up.
  4. You do not know whether to believe your facilitator, counselor or peers in recovery when they talk about all the positive outcomes of changing.
  5. You feel fear and anxiety when you think about change, and those are two feelings that you used over so change is now a trigger to use.
  6. You believe that change is going to be too difficult.
  7. You are uncertain how to change.
  8. You are not sure what to change and what to change it into.

When you make your list, use some from above if they describe your obstacles and barriers. However, if they do not, then be honest, and come up with your own, so that it is personal and relevant to you.

For some of you, merely knowing what your choices have cost you or the consequences you have gotten is not enough to get you motivated to change. For many of you, the fear of both success and failure will prevent you from moving forward.

When someone tells you what or how to change, you may create a barrier and your attitude can become the obstacle. Ask yourself what you hear when someone tells you how or what to change.

  • Some of you hear that you are bad.
  • Some of you hear that you are a loser, or whatever negative connotation you put on it.
  • Some of you hear that what effort you have put into changing is not enough so to heck with it.
  • Some of you hear messages from your past.
  • Some of you get outright stubborn and do not change just because someone told you to change.

Apparently if someone you care about has asked you to change, a court has told you to change, treatment is encouraging you to change, people in recovery supportive meetings are telling you how they changed, and a part of you wants to change, then there must be some other barriers in you that prevents you from fully and completely embracing change.

Recovery gives us options.  Not just choices, but new ways of viewing ourselves, our efforts and our skills.
Recovery gives us options. Not just choices, but new ways of viewing ourselves, our efforts and our skills. | Source

May Be Time for a Personal Intervention

Interventions work because they disrupt the normal ways of doing things. Interventions do not have to be from outside sources, but can happen because you are no longer willing to accept the outcomes, dislike the consequences, and genuinely want something different in your life.

Drug dealers and high-end prostitutes have a hard time changing their perception of “making money.” If they were successful, money was not the issue, but the threat of incarceration for both, the paranoia of the activity for both, the physical dangers of the occupations would have been present for both.

Besides the money, the ego and control over others are hard to give up. So what if anything can make changing their occupations appealing to them?

It certainly would not be the minimum wage job that their other skills qualify them for in the workforce. Therefore, income or lack of it would be a barrier to recovery. They would have to find something that had enough personal appeal to change their attitude about their economic future in recovery.

The dealer may have business savvy and skills that could help him in running another, legal business. The escort has learned a lot about people and those skills could translate to customer services, marketing, and sales. Granted, these are not necessarily high paying jobs, but they are a start towards legitimacy for both.

Changes Come from Modifying Something

Some people think that the “change” has to come all at once, or that the initial changes will be perfect. Rarely does this happen regarding the ideas, behaviors, and actions that you have operated from for years. However, you can make headway on the big change by doing and modifying little things daily.

If you procrastinate because the task seems so large and would take you more time than you think you have, spend 15 minutes on it. Make that much headway on the bigger problem.

What often happens is that you end up spending a little more time, feel a great sense of relief that you have made some progress and can get encouraged to do a bit more tomorrow.

Small incremental changes and effort work for cleaning your house, detailing your car, or removing obstacles to change. "Each of us has the opportunity to change and grow until our very last breath. Happy creating". M.F. RYAN

You have discretionary funds now - reward yourelf
You have discretionary funds now - reward yourelf | Source
Making a reward wearable means you always have a reminder of your changes and your recovery options
Making a reward wearable means you always have a reminder of your changes and your recovery options | Source

Would rewarding yourself for positive changes motivate you to make more changes?

See results

Reward the Positive Changes

Giving yourself credit when you have accomplished changes can motivate you to make more changes. Giving yourself a personal reward, regardless of its value to others, validates and encourages you to make additional changes

The rewards that you give yourself can reflect back to you each time you see the object. For instance, you have always wanted to acquire original artwork, but spending money on drugs prevented you from even considering such a purchase.

Now, you can head to a local art festival and even if the acquisition is $500.00; it is still considerably less than you spent on drugs. You now have an original piece of art or jewelry, and I am assuming, it touches you in some way. As a reminder of your recovery, you can:

  • Hang this on the wall
  • Put it on the shelf
  • Wear that original jewelry

Each time you see it or touch your neck, your artwork validates your changes. I have a friend who started a charm bracelet to remind her of all the blessings of her recovery. Art, or a charm bracelet not your thing?

Find something that represents a reward to you. A book, dinner at an upscale restaurant, front row tickets to a concert or theater production, fresh flowers once a week, or new clothes, car or home. The list of rewards will be individual to you, just as the barriers and obstacles were.


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    • MDavisatTIERS profile image

      Marilyn L Davis 4 years ago from Georgia

      Hi Denise. You have isolated one of the biggest stumbling blocks to personal change; that we are not sure that the benefits, outcomes or feelings will be more positive and rewarding versus the time, energy and effort required to make significant changes.

      I will often have to go back to some basics with a pros and cons, or make a commitment to do a new thing for a specific period of time to evaluate the benefits of the change. Sometimes I stay with the new and other times, I revert to the old as I do not see the rewards. Other times, I have to ask how best to modify as I was not making effective changes towards another goal.

      I always appreciate your comments. Marilyn

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 4 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I think that the biggest obstacle for me to change is that change is difficult. It takes effort, study, and time. It means setting aside my own comfort and learning something that I am not sure is going to give me the benefits that I want. It is so much easier to go on the way I am!