The very nature of alcoholism and drug addiction prevents a person from just deciding to quit.
It is quite a unique occurrence for a person to just turn away from an addiction and never look back. For the masses, there must be a process to quit drinking or using drugs. So, what is that process for addiction recovery? Well, according to Psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente (1982), there is a fairly consistent pattern for this. They called it the “Six Stages of Change” and they created a model which uses a wheel to show the pattern of change.
Prochaska and DiClemente determined that people enter the change process in a stage called “Pre-contemplation”, where a problem is identified and a thought follows, entertaining the prospect that a change is needed. In a perfect scenario, one would enter the wheel in pre-contemplation, then work through the stages of Contemplation, Preparation, Action and finally a Maintenance stage. In that perfect scenario, the deal would be done, so an exit would be made at that point.
The world of change, however, is not always perfect, and our 2 psychologists included a stage of Relapse, where the change does not permanently take hold. This is the spot where a sober alcoholic drinks again, a clean drug addict uses again or anyone making a change reverts back to the way things were before. It is not mandatory that one crosses into the relapse section of the wheel. An entry to the wheel can be made, and an exit can be accomplished without ever relapsing. But relapse does exist.
If one is truly dedicated to the attempted change, then relapse is failure. No doubt. I don’t want to create any denial about that. But I do not wish to look at relapse with shame. That is defeating. It is OK and normal to feel bad at some point, but more important is the opportunity to go for it again… and however many “agains” it takes to be successful.
There are many reasons for relapse, but one may be due to an early entry of an alcoholic or drug addict into the change process. Voluntary entry to the wheel of change is generally governed by realization, or loss. This is known as a “bottom” and can be quite devastating in nature. I define a bottom as “the point at which the alcoholic or drug addict believes he or she has had enough.” This point opens a person for the possibility of change, and may serve as the necessary motivation.
But what is a suitable bottom?
- Getting caught by a family member or losing a job?
- Running out of money?
- A DUI?
- An ambulance ride?
- Loss of a leg?
- A coma?
Like in the lyrics of The Limbo Rock, “How low can you go?”
Any form of a bottom is great in my book. Actually, the higher the better, right? Cuts the losses. I know this from personal experiences as well as from those with whom I have come into contact through the years. I could have lost a lot more than I did. It did not feel like it at the time, and that’s OK. So far, my bottom has served me well. I never want to go back there.
Relapse, as I indicated earlier, may be due to an “early” entry into the wheel. Who is to say what is enough? Only the alcoholic or the addict can say that. A higher bottom recovery attempt that fails may be due to the mindset that “the old life didn’t hurt me that bad.” This may mean that the struggles, or apparent lack of rewards of early sobriety do not outweigh the losses that motivated the change. But do it again!
Waiting for that “Perfect Start” may cost you your life.
So, a “Start” may, in the long run, be better than a “Perfect Start”.
Start somewhere, start early and get sober!
Sober Coaches can help you, or a family member, to assess a current situation in order to help bring about the motivation for change. Help with alcoholism, or help with drug addiction is easily available today. It takes only a decision and a contact.
Dave Innis is a sober coach and resides in Massachusetts. He offers sober companion and coaching services nationally, working with clients in person or via phone, Skype and email. Dave can work with a client personally or refer out to obtain a better match, based on location, gender, etc. To read more about his services or to contact him, visit his website: http://www.daveinnis.com