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Photo: Catherine McMahon for Unsplash

Making the commitment to changing your habits can be the first and main step to making a difference.

The disease of alcoholism usually begins without warning. In many cases, there is no clear path to alcohol use disorder. When it comes to recovery, however, it is very important to create a clear intention and path to wellness.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that as many as 17 million U.S. adults, ages 18 and older struggle with some type of alcohol use disorder. This does not include the estimated 855,000 adolescents who also suffer from this condition. It is clear that alcohol misuse is a common problem, but the solution often involves highly structured effort.

Addiction is a complicated disease that has much more to do with physiology than willpower.Alcohol use disorder often makes quitting “easier said than done.” The fact is, individuals with alcohol use disorder have often developed some type of tolerance or dependence on alcohol. Because every case is unique, problem drinking can yield a number of unfortunate effects. Despite these effects, the presence of an alcohol problem often hinders real recovery without some type of assistance, whether that assistance comes in the form of counseling, medical assistance, or both.

Stages of Change and Commitment to Change

One well-known recovery theory is known as the “stages of change” model. In this model, physicians and therapists recognize six distinct stages of change and readiness to change.

These six stages of change are:
  • 1) Precontemplation: During the precontemplation stage of change, the person who has a drinking issue does not wish to change drinking behaviors. This person may not be completely aware that a drinking problem exists, or the drinking may serve to numb difficult emotions or thoughts. Individuals in this stage may appear angry, resistant to change, or dismissive of the issue. In all honesty, these individuals are often struggling on some level to cope with something, or to maintain life as it has always been.
  • 2) Contemplation: Contemplation often begins after the individual becomes aware of the drinking problem. A person in this stage may see a need to change, but drinking may still serve a purpose in his or her life. Individuals in this stage may believe that they can quit anytime they want, which is often an undefined future date. However, individuals in this stage are considering change, and may be considering how to make such an important and often intimidating change.
  • 3) Preparation: During the preparation stage of change, the individual has often realized how damaging drinking has become. The commitment to change increases greatly, and the individual begins to make a wellness plan. This is a good time to learn more about recovery treatment and find a program that can meet the needs of each individual participant. This is a time of goal-making, and the individual may begin to share his or her hopeful new commitment with others.
  • 4) Action: People in the action stage of change are in the midst of actively perusing wellness. During this stage the commitment to change may be strengthened by the support of a quality treatment program and peers who understand the individual’s goals and desires.
  • 5) Maintenance: The maintenance stage of change sounds easier than it truly is. During this stage, all of the efforts and work that took place during the action stage must take place in everyday life. The goal in maintenance is to keep that passion to obtain a healthy life alive. The recovering alcoholic should continue to seek healing through counseling and peer support, in order to prevent relapse.
  • 6) Relapse: Relapsing is not a sin. Relapse happens. That is why the stages of change theory added “relapse” as part of the steps. Relapse may help and individual learn more about him-or-herself. Relapse does not mean the end of recovery—it simply means that the stages of change cycle back around, and healing can begin again.

The stages of change theory postulates that patients may move through these stages of change-readiness, and fluctuate in their desire to commit to lasting change. In other words, desire to change often changes over time, and setbacks, stressors, or even temptations can alter a person’s commitment to recovery.

Because alcoholism is a disease that impacts the reward system of the brain, it may sometimes become difficult to obtain a full commitment to change without some outside support, such as a strong system of peers, encouraging family members, targeted mental health counseling, and/or medical assistance.

A commitment to change is a very strong and important step toward healing. If you or someone you love is ready for change, we can help. Learn more about your options in recovery. Call us today to find out more.

Article written by Foundations Recovery Network.

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