Over the course of helping tens of thousands of substance users over the last 31 years, I’ve come to some realizations about what makes the “addict” or “alcoholic” overcome and move on successfully from their habits. If you are a person that believes you are powerless, well, you will be powerless. If you are someone that thinks they can move on successfully, you will – provided you have the correct information and attitude. In The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, we cover the topic of how your beliefs about your addictions can affect the outcome. Take a look (from Chapter 13, Success):
“You are free to rethink the benefits of reducing or quitting
You may have thought that life without heavy intoxication would be miserable or intolerable. You are free to challenge that belief, and to see life with less substance use as a happier option, rather than a miserable loss. There are potential gains for everyone in quitting or moderating if you look for them.
In saying this, we need to be clear that we are not talking about avoiding costs. Avoiding costs is, of course, part of the equation when deciding to change your substance use, but this is a negative, and in the long run your actions are motivated by positives. The PDP says you will be motivated toward what you see as your happiest option. Quitting substances can free up time and energy to find more exciting things to do, more peace, a greater sense of freedom, a return to health, etc. In some ways, these are the flipsides of the costs, but they are real gains; they are benefits. Will you choose to consider them as you decide whether to abstain, moderate, or use heavily? Will you give yourself a chance to find your happiest option? Or will you stay focused on costs rather than benefits? You are free to choose how you think about this.
You are free to shift your focus from costs to benefits
In every area of life, people make their decisions primarily focused on benefits. They don’t seek to incur more costs, or hope for more disasters to scare them in a new direction. Going back to the example at the beginning of this chapter, if you’re unsatisfied with your job you don’t hope for it to get worse to motivate you to quit. What most people do when they recognize that a job or career is unsatisfying is look for a better job or career. The dissatisfaction motivates them to look for better options, but if they don’t look or don’t find any, they usually stay right where they are. When people think they’ve got a better job in sight that is when they quit. Yet when it comes to this issue of unsatisfying patterns of substance use, many people look for more negatives, more consequences, more pain, in order to motivate them to quit. It’s commonplace for people to tell us things such as “I wish I would get arrested because that would make me quit,” or “I wish my doctor would tell me I have to quit that would make it easier.” Or “the problem is I don’t have enough negative consequences, I’m a functioning alcoholic.” This is in line with the recovery ideology of a substance user needing to “hit bottom.”
It would be quite strange indeed to think things such as “I wish my boss would threaten me more,” “I wish my coworkers were more annoying,” “I wish they would give me more work than I can handle, because that would make it easier to quit my job.” Most people’s natural inclination is to simply look for a better job, promotion, or transfer to another department where they think they’d be happier.
A substance use habit is a normal life choice. It can be approached in the same way that people approach other life changes. If you are unsatisfied, you can look for a way of living that satisfies you more, that has the potential to make you happier. You are free to approach it this way, or you are free to continue to think of it as something that you need to be scared and forced out of doing in some way. This shift in approach is your choice to make.”
And it is that last paragraph that really sums up the perspective change that needs to be made. Knowing that the human psyche is motivated by benefits and the happier option in all decision making is the key. While costs and consequences will motivate you temporarily, they don’t provide the fuel for sustainable lifestyle changes. You can only hide in AA and NA meetings so long before your desire to move on and become a happier more fulfilled person takes over. Embrace the happier choices in life. Become aware of your motivations and desire to be happier, and act accordingly. If you do so, you just might find you no longer need to scare yourself straight, and you can finally move on to a much better place in life.
Mark Scheeren is the co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, and is the co-founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, the only residential non-12 step model for addiction in the world. For addiction help, call 888-424-2626
For more information about The Freedom Model go to TheFreedomModel.org
For more information about the St. Jude Retreat, go to www.soberforever.net