Deciding To Change

What is Addiction Part 3: Deciding to Stop Using Drugs or Drinking

Estimated watch time: 6 mins 45 secs


When you decide that you’re ready to make such a huge change in your life as stopping your use of substances, it can be overwhelming. Prepare yourself to make this change by first understanding why you’re doing it and how change is always a process.

This video guides you through what it means to decide you’re going to make a change.

Video Materials:


Deciding to Change

Hi, and welcome to this lesson on ‘Deciding to Change’.

We are going to talk about what to do if you decide that you are an alcoholic or an addict and if you decide you’re ready to make a change.

Making the change to change your behavior is a process. It takes time. And that process can ebb and flow over months or sometimes over years. Dr. Miller in 1996 created what’s called the Trans-theoretical model of change, which identifies five stages of change we all move through when we’re making a decision to change our behavior. And this is not just for addicts and alcoholics.  This is anybody making any change in their behavior.

Every person can move through these stages at different paces and we may advance or move back to a prior stage at any time.

The first stage is called pre contemplation. And in this stage, a person is not yet aware that there is a need for change. Other people may notice that there’s a problem that needs changing, but the person that needs to change may not notice it. So more than likely, if you’re watching this video, you’re probably not in pre-contemplation stage anymore. But lots of people who are addicted spend a lot of time in pre contemplation.

The second stage is the contemplation stage. And my guess is you’re at least in this stage of change. And this is when you start to believe that you need to change in some manner. Generally, it’s when the person realizes their behaviors and the resulting consequences are not in line with the way he or she wants their life to be. So you start saying things like “maybe drinking or using isn’t good for me anymore.”

The next stage is preparation. And that’s when you realize you have a problem that needs to be changed and you start to plan for what you’re going to do about that. Maybe you set a date to quit using or you make an appointment for an evaluation, or you look up where twelve step meetings are in your area.  In some way you start thinking about what do I need to do with this?

The next stage is action. And this is when you actually put the plan into place that you created. So maybe you start going to a twelve step meeting or you enter a treatment program or you start to see a therapist, any kind of action.

The last stage is maintenance, and that has been when you have sustained your change for six months or longer. And this could mean that you have entered treatment and then you’ve been sober for six months or even that maybe you’ve had a couple of little slips, but you’ve still been working a consistent program of sobriety. So what stage do you think you’re in? And I’d like you to think about whether or not you’ve been in other stages before. It is not uncommon for people to get to the maintenance stage and then relapse and go back to preparation or contemplation.

And think about what it might take for you to move to that next stage. Maybe you’re in contemplation and you want to think about how to move to the preparation stage or youre in preparation and you want to move to the action stage. So we’re going to look at a few pros and cons to help us to make that decision.

So in order to resolve ambivalence, it’s important to know that it can take a long time to make a decision that you’re an addict or an alcoholic and you need to do something different. Anyone seeking to change behavior has ambivalence. It’s a very normal process and we need to work through seeing the reasons that we use.  What it gives to us and the reasons we no longer want to use and what it takes from us. We tend to make changes when we feel the consequences of our behavior more than we feel the pleasure of our behavior. We can resolve ambivalence by thinking about the pros and cons of continuing to use and the pros and cons of stopping our use.

In the exercise following this lesson, you will identify your reasons for using, cons of using, the benefits of reducing or quitting use, and lastly what you will miss about using.

Here are some examples of reasons for using, but you can have very different reasons. So please take some time after this lesson to think about what those reasons might be for you. The first is that it can help you with anxiety. Maybe it helps you to feel relaxed. It provides an escape from difficult feelings or situations. It’s fun. It helps you with your social connections. Any and all answers are good.

So now we want to look at the cons of continuing to use. Maybe you’re having health problems such as liver disease or heart disease or the using is causing or worsening emotional problems for you. Depression and anxiety are very common in addiction or its continued use is creating financial problems. It’s creating problems in your relationship or it’s causing problems with productivity. Either you’re having difficulty with work or school. So think about what those problems of continuing to drink or use are for you. Now, let’s look at the benefits of reducing or quitting alcohol and drugs. So what are the things that would come into your life or that you would hope would come into your life if you quit using? And that could be improved health, more stable emotions, improved relationships. You save money, performing better at school, at work, or feeling better about yourself.  What benefits are you looking for?

And lastly, we want to think about what you will miss about drinking or using. What are the cons of quitting use? Maybe you would miss the positive mood from using, you’ll miss the activities you did while you were using, or the people that you associated with when you were using. You might miss the friends that you used with or not being able to cope with your emotions. What do you think you might miss about drinking or using?

Once you’ve completed the exercise after this lesson, you’ll be able to see your responses to your reasons for using, cons of using, the benefits of reducing or quitting use, and lastly what you will miss about using.  When the cons of using and benefits of quitting or reducing have more responses in it than the reasons for use and what you will miss about using, is when you will likely decide to quit using.

Thank you for choosing The Recovery Village.  If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or substance abuse and would like to find out more about the programs we offer, please reach out to us directly at 855-387-3291.

Other Addiction & Mental Health Resources

The Recovery Village has several, free resources for those living with addiction or mental health conditions and their loved ones. From videos, to clinically-hosted webinars and recovery meetings, to helpful, medically-reviewed articles, there is something for everyone. If you need more direct help, please reach out to one of our representatives.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.