Perhaps there’s a part of you that knows you want to make a change, but there’s another part of you that struggles with the idea. You might realize that you’ve got to stop drinking but there’s another part of you that wonders how you’re going to do it. You might realize that you rely on alcohol and/or drugs for a sense of stability, feeling better when you’re down, and a coping tool for many areas of your life. You might wonder about the strength of your need to change versus the strength of your addiction. Assessing one over the other might be useful information for making decisions, such as getting help, putting life projects on hold to get treatment, asking for support, or making other changes to your life to facilitate healing.
In order to assess the strength of your desire to change versus the strength of your addiction, you can use the Stages of Change model. It was developed in 1983 by clinician James Prochaska. This model can be used as a map if you or someone you care for is attempting to make the transformation from addiction to sobriety. When you read the descriptions below, see if you can recognize where you are. Once you pinpoint where you are in the process of change, you might ask for help from a friend, therapist, drug counselor, or addiction treatment center to further your readiness for change.
Pre-contemplation: At this stage, an addict may not recognize there is a problem. There are no thoughts about making any change at all. If anyone points out a concern, anyone in this stage would feel that that he or she is exaggerating. The impact of the problem has not become conscious and there is no consideration to make any adjustment to one’s life.
Contemplation: Adults in this stage are willing to consider that there might be a concern. However, their ambivalence is high. They haven’t made a firm decision to change; rather, they know that the drinking or drug use is problematic and are willing to look at pros and cons to sobriety. At this stage, a counselor or therapist might accompany an individual through a risk-reward analysis. Together, they might examine previous attempts to change in the past, causes for failure, and benefits and barriers to change.
Determination: The hallmark of this stage is that a decision to change has been made. Although there continues to be some ambivalence, the determination to change is strong enough to outweigh any obstacles. There is a serious attempt to change with a realistic look at anticipatory problems, concrete solutions, and a sensible plan for recovery.
Action: As the energy of determination continues to build, an individual takes action and chooses to implement his or her recovery plan. A person might make their commitment to change public by telling friends in order receive external validation for their efforts. This stage might also include attending support groups, AA meetings, or individual therapy. As a recovery plan succeeds, emotional rewards might also become evident such as self-confidence, happiness, and optimism.
Maintenance: Although a recovery plan is in place and a recovering addict has taken action towards that plan, maintaining sobriety can be challenging. This stage might even include relapse, but the foundation for a sober life is becoming firm. The person in recovery is becoming more aware of old habits and is growing the ability to make healthier choices. The test of this stage is maintaining the new behavior in order to create a life-long change.
The advantage of knowing this model is that it can be used to assess where you’re headed. For instance, if you’ve already made a firm decision to quit drinking or using, then you know that you’re in the Determination stage and that taking action will be your next task. The Stages of Change model is like a map to know where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.
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