Change is the solution

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Change is the solution by Henk Nagel

"What does CHANGE mean? How to change? and, more importantly, what makes ‘changing’ so difficult?"

Change… Most human beings are familiar with the concept of change, and resistance to change. Humans are prone to remaining in their comfort zone, the familiar no matter how uncomfortable it appears.

Most people have a desire to change certain negative and/or self-defeating habits but find themselves having a lot of difficulties with the implementation of the desired change. People usually only change when survival is at stake.
There is a lot to say about change so I will focus on the aspects of our past that we want to change in this article, and explore some of the solutions such as goal setting.

The definition of change is ‘to make or become different’. In my explanation I would say that change means replacing one habit for another or to replace one thought for another. In our treatment we challenge behavioral aspects to replace a negative habit for a positive one, and we use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help clients replacing negative and unhelpful thinking patterns for a more positive, performance enhancing thinking pattern.

There are many causes that make change difficult. Some of the main ones are: the persons comfort zone, core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, our past experiences, low or insufficient levels of desire and motivation, fears for the unknown etc.

‘We are a product of our past’

or so is a saying you might be familiar with. Humans develop automatic responses to everything that happens around us and we do that because it helps us to deal with the complexity of the world. Some studies say that 80% of what humans do is unconscious and automatic. If you drop a pencil you just pick it up. You don’t think about what just happened, what the consequences are, what to do now etc. You probably just pick it up without giving it any thought. This is because you have learned in your life that when a pencil falls out of your hand you just pick it up and further nothing happens. This is an easy example but the concept of automatic responses is a big part of how we live our lives. People in general - but addicts in particularly – are likely to develop automatic negative responses to the world around us. Examples are anger, self-pity, feeling as a victim, blaming others, and many more. In some cases anger can be a healthy responds but when it becomes a habit and surfaces regularly it will become a negative way of responding.

Ambivalence means ‘the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone’. An example can be that you want to quit drinking alcohol because it causes a lot of problems in your life but you enjoy getting drunk and are afraid of living life without drinking. Ambivalence makes change extremely difficult because you won’t be fully committed to make the change you would like to make and are likely to ‘build a case’ to justify falling back into old behavior. If you are unsure about making the change it means you are still contemplating and not ready for action yet.

Before you start making a big change it is very helpful to set a clear goal to give yourself direction and something to work towards. After having the main goal set you can now start identifying all the little steps you need to make to achieve the main goal. You formulate all the little steps into little goals. Make sure all the goals you’re setting are Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time bound (SMART).

Goal setting is a very helpful tool that helps people with their changes because humans function in general much better if they have a clear direction about where to go and where to work for. Accomplishing goals is very satisfying as you will probably now.


Change is the solution

Change is the solution: Using the Transtheoretical model or so called cycle of change stages;

1. Precontemplation stage is a term to describe not having enough self-awareness of what needs changing, not acknowledging the problem, could be in denial.

2. Contemplation stage, this is when you are aware of the problems so realize change is necessary but not quite ready.

3. Preparation stage is when you start planning the change and become ready.

4. Action stage is like being in rehab or counselling to implement changes.

5. Maintenance stage is when you have achieved the change and now want to keep it up like going to the gym or attending AA meetings.

Termination stage describes the point at which no conscious effort is needed to maintain the change, its now become second nature. Unfortunately, this stage does not apply to the chronic disease of addiction as recovery maintenance is always necessary to stay safe.

An example could be: Ultimate goal, Achieve abstinence and get my life on track;

1. Goal one - Precontemplation – get feedback on what to change
2. Goal two - Contemplation – select the priorities to change
3. Goal three - Preparation – plan how best to change
4. Goal four - Action – start the process of change
5. Goal five - Maintenance – work out how to keep up the gains
6. Goal six - Termination – decide whether to start new changes

SMART goals or goal setting criteria is another model that can be used to achieve change

1. Specific – target something you want to change.
2. Measurable – accountability or document the change.
3. Assignable – how and when.
4. Realistic – for your life.
5. Time-related – set a time limit so you have a target.

At Hope the common goal usually includes the following for Rehab admission (E.g. because I can’t stop by myself, I tried it already many times so I need help)

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Change is the solution

I will comply with a treatment program
I will be honest, open-minded and willing to follow the program
I will do whatever it takes to learn how to live clean and sober

After rehab I will do everything I have learned in rehab when I leave

I will use the support groups
I will do my ABC’s every time I feel upset
I will get a sponsor
I will do my step work
I will do my meditation
I will do my physical exercise

Using this change technique, goal setting and sticking to them, anyone can address addiction issues. I have changed many own self-defeating behaviors using goal setting and I have helped many people do the same and change their lives.

Change is the solution by Henk Nagel