Understanding Why Change is Difficult for Addicts Written by Heather Valsan
The power to change. We all have it – that deeply rooted internal force within us that cries out, “Stand up and do better. Be better.” Making a change that positively impacts your life is like searching for a rare and precious diamond in a mine. You know that somewhere within the ashy, dark rocks is something sacred and beautiful. Finding it will change your life forever. There’s only one caveat. You’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and jump into a dark and scary place that offers no promises or guarantees.
The Dark Mine of Addicition
It’s really, really messy in there. Taking the risk to do something that improves the quality of your life takes guts.
When an addict takes a leap of faith to get sober, there is often a realization that previous uncomfortable and painful experiences will have to be dealt with. Facing one’s past can be extremely difficult, but with the help of supportive professionals, family, and friends, they learn how to overcome those barriers that keep them stuck, miserable and addicted. As days turn into weeks of sobriety, the addict begins to discover who is really is, and what he’s capable of doing.
We can better understand why it’s so hard for addicts to stop using when we have insight into addiction from their perspective. You may know someone who has lost everything to drugs and alcohol. Maybe you’ve watched them lose fulfilling careers and destroy the relationships that mattered the most. Why would anyone choose to live this way? Why would someone keep on abusing substances, knowing that doing so will lead to isolation, physical and emotional pain, and an untimely death?
To answer these questions, we can explore the example of the diamond in the mine. Imagine for a moment that the diamond represents sobriety, and the rest of the mine is all the “stuff” that the addict has to endure in order to find it. What would be the incentive for him to jump into the uncharted territory of his innermost fears and insecurities? His head spins with questions about his family – “Will they forgive me? Will I ever see my kids again? If I find my diamond, what if I relapse and lose it?”
From the perspective of an addict, he knows that if he shoots up again or downs another bottle of vodka, there will be a few minutes or hours of solace, and a relief from the internal demons that continuously haunt him. Digging around in the mine of early sobriety will mean that things are going to become even harder. If the addict does decide to take a leap of faith, there really isn’t any guarantee that he’ll be able to maintain sobriety, mend damaged relationships or find any sort of true happiness.
There’s a push-pull cycle with addicts. They feel a push to make a positive change, but then pull away out of fear, self-doubt and lack of social support.
Many of us have wondered how we can motivate someone to stop using drugs or abusing alcohol. I’ll tell you the answer. Stop thinking you can. There’s nothing you can say or do to make your loved one miraculously come to terms with the path of self-destruction they are headed down. You can’t make threats, take away material possessions, or lay down ground rules thinking that an addict will see the error of his ways.
Motivation and change don’t work that way. We need to start thinking, “What incentive does Johnny have for quitting, and what can I do to help him find it?” You might ask, “What did Johnny want to do or aspire to be before he started using?” Gently and compassionately, remind him of those things.
Don’t take away your love or threaten to abandon him. Instead, with mindful boundaries in place, make yourself available to provide support and encouragement when he asks for it, and when he doesn’t.
Remember, you are not supporting his habit but you are supporting him. While you may refuse to let Johnny come into your home at 2:00 AM, you have not closed your doors entirely. As soon as possible, you should have a talk with him about rehab. It’s a good idea to keep these conversations brief and non-confrontational. Talk about how it feels to watch him self-destruct and explain your concerns without being judgmental.
Remind him of the things that used to make him happy, and how much raw and untapped potential lies before him if he gets sober.
Being fully present is enough. Sometimes the best way to reach someone is to stop talking and start listening. Try to understand from your loved one’s perspective why giving up the substance is so immensely challenging. Put yourself in his shoes, and you will be in a better place to understand his fears, support him through the darkest moments, and inspire him to take a step in the right direction.
If you need a consultation, please feel free to reach out to Landmark. Our Admissions Consultants will walk you through the steps to help you through the recovery process.