How We Grow: The Stages of Change

stages of changeThis month was the 25th anniversary of the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. I loved Nirvana as a teenager (sorry Mom) and still enjoy “Heart-Shaped Box” whenever I hear it over the airwaves. I remember his tragic end after a long bout with heroin use. It had been quite a while since I’d thought about his story.

 

Now, after all these years and working so closely with addictive behaviors and substance use, I felt sad as I read stories like this one about how loved ones tried to help him. They did their best, as we all do, in a difficult situation, and they were listening to the professionals guiding them.

 

Still, they can’t help but wonder today: What might they have done differently? How could they have reached him? How could they have helped? Could his story have ended in another way?

 

Of course, everyone affected by addiction—including those struggling with addictive behaviors and substance use themselves—asks similar questions not in retrospect but every day they live with their using or acting out.

 

Those struggling with substance use or problematic, compulsive sexual behaviors want to understand how they could possibly return to their addictive behavior of choice, sometimes even after a long period of abstinence. “Why do I keep doing this?” they ask. “And how can I change?”

 

Family and friends want to understand helpful ways to support their loved ones. They’re often desperate to help the loved one find healing and become hurt, angry, frustrated, and exhausted trying to understand his or her behavior.

 

A sound understanding of how people change can provide the foundation for answering both of these questions. If we understand the stages of change, we can give ourselves a bit of grace as we struggle with our addictive behavior. And family members can learn how to better support their loved ones and promote their healing.

How Alternative Addiction Treatment Can Work for You

Koorosh Rassekh, MMFT, is a licensed therapist and founder of Evo Health and Wellness in Venice Beach, California. His mission is to break the stigma around mental health and create a world of healthier people, families, and communities.

 

I recently connected with Koorosh and invited him to share about how he helps his clients change their addictive behavior. Read more about my collaboration with him about sex and porn addiction here.

 

1) Evo’s website states that you respects “where you are and where you want to go.” What does this mean for how you think about and treat addictions?

 

Taking inspiration from one of my mentors and one of Evo’s key advisors, Dr. Gabor Maté, I would say that Evo understands that addiction is never the primary issue. It is a secondary response to something deeper happening for a person – trauma, marginalization, the impact of being different, bullying culture, rape culture, etc. When people suffer, they turn to whatever is available to address their suffering. With substances, people often use as a coping mechanism, and this coping mechanism becomes a problem within itself.

Making the Most of “Dry January” (Especially If You Keep Drinking)

dry januaryPerhaps you’ve seen articles and posts floating around on social media this time of year about Dry January. If you haven’t, Dry January is a one-month challenge to abstain from alcohol created by Alcohol Change in 2012. About 4 million people participated in 2018, and maybe you’re trying to decide if participating this year is right for you.

 

After all, January is a time of resolutions for the coming year. Many people use Dry January as a way to help them reevaluate their drinking, especially as drinking typically peaks during the last few weeks of the year around Christmas and New Year’s.

 

There are plenty of articles out there like this one to help you figure out if you want to participate in Dry January or not. If you do decide to keep drinking, here are some other ways to participate so that you can make the most of your Dry January.

If You’re Looking for Substance Abuse Treatment in Ventura County, Read This

substance abuse treatment venturaIf you love someone who is struggling with a drug addiction or a substance use disorder, chances are you’re in crisis mode. Most likely, something has happened—again—that’s prompted you to seek out addiction counseling for your loved one or family member—again.

 

You’re scared for your loved one. Probably, you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and lot a little resentful. “Why does this keep happening?” you say to yourself. “He needs to really work his program this time. He didn’t work hard enough last time.”

 

Meanwhile, you wonder if you’re codependent. At least, that’s what most of what you’ve read says. You struggle with the line between supportive love and destructive caretaking. So much of what you do seems to alienate your loved one. And he’s not getting any better. After all, this has happened before. Will this time be different?

 

The good news is that yes, this time can be different.

Create Your Optimal Use Plan

optimal use planThe New Year is right around the corner. Many make resolutions to change their relationship with alcohol or a substance, resolving to use it less or not at all.

 

Maybe you’re working on this already. If changing your pattern of using or drinking is important to you, perhaps it’s time to consider creating what’s called an optimal use plan.

 

An optimal use plan is a hypothetical plan or vision that you can create on your own, with the help of a loved one, or ideally a therapist. It’s a “working plan” that will help you name your goals for your drinking or using and includes strategies for how to achieve them.

 

So how do you create one? Let’s dive in.

Master Your Recovery Mindset

master your recovery mindsetIf you’re in trying to change your relationship with alcohol, a drug, sex, porn, or some other addictive behavior, you know it’s not a cakewalk. I want to walk you through an exercise today that will hopefully call attention to recurring thoughts that might be getting in the way of you reaching your goals.

 

I’m going to try something different here. I’m going to ask you to notice your first reactions to the statements that I’m going to give you. But in order for it to work, you have to promise to pause after you read each statement, taking note of what you’re thinking.

 

So don’t read on until you do that, okay? But first, a few words about why this is important. Let’s dive in.

Changing the Conversation with Your Addict

changing the conversation with your addictIf you’re in recovery, and especially if you frequent 12-step meetings, it’s not uncommon to hear about the “addict” in each person who struggles with addictive behavior. Often, using this term in this way refers to that part of the individual that wants to use, act out, or wreak havoc in some other way that is harmful to others.

 

I completely understand, then, why when I hear folks use this term in this way, they’re trying to prevent that damage from happening. They don’t want to lie anymore. They don’t want to hurt their partner with the “addict’s” hurtful words. And they really don’t want to use or act out.

 

So why am I about changing the conversation with your addict?

How to Find an Addiction Counselor

addiction counselorFinding the right help for an addiction isn’t easy. These days, there are quite a few options. Do you choose inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment? Intensive outpatient? An online recovery program?

 

And what do you do if you know you also have concerns about your mental health at the same time? How should you decide what you should do if you need chemical dependency treatment and also need help with your depression, anxiety, or some other mental health issue?

 

Navigating all of this can be tricky, but there are a few considerations that might be helpful as you find an addiction counselor to begin your recovery.

Why Overcoming Addiction Isn’t About Getting Sober

overcoming addictionWhen we talk about overcoming addiction, successful recovery is often determined by abstinence or sobriety. That is, you’ve only beaten your addiction to the extent that you haven’t used, drank, or acted out.

 

This idea is so common in our culture that in 12-step circles, we measure the strength of one’s recovery in terms of “clean time,” or that period of time that’s elapsed since your last acted, used, or drank. Hang around recovery treatment centers long enough and you’re bound to hear things like, “He’s got 12 years,” or “I just got my 90 days.”

 

But here’s the thing: Overcoming addiction has nothing to do with how long you haven’t engaged in your addiction. 

 

So what’s the real story with beating addiction?

Silencing the Inner Critic: Alcohol, Drugs, Porn, and Problematic Sex

silencing your inner criticChances are if you’re reading this blog post, you know exactly what an “inner critic” is. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’re intimately familiar with what that inner critic sounds like.

 

You also know all too well what if feels like to be on the receiving end of his or her withering, ruthless self-criticisms and attacks.

 

I certainly do. As I’ve gotten better over the years at listening to how I talk to myself, I’ve noticed that I am my own worst critic. It’s a cliche for a reason as being harder on oneself than anyone else is a very common experience.

 

Let’s look at this inner critic and what it has to do with problematic drug use or sexual behaviors.