“Changing For Good”

23 years ago Prochaska, DiClemente, and Norcross’s classic work on how people actually change first came out. Since then it has helped both individuals and clinicians chart strategies which lead to actual, permanent changes in a person’s life.

How did they do this? They did what’s known in academic circles as a forensic study, a fancy way of saying they found people who had actually made changes and asked them how they’d done it.

With a little digging they discovered a 6 stage pattern:

  1. Precontemplation;
  2. Contemplation;
  3. Preparation;
  4. Action;
  5. Maintenance;
  6. Recycling.

Most of us in the field or practice of alcohol abuse can readily see these stages in the lives of ourselves, clients, or both.

Precontemplation is the classic “I don’t have a problem. Why look at George (or Joan), now there’s someone with a problem,” they say while sipping on a fourth martini or opening another bottle of Chardonnay.

Contemplation starts with “hmm, maybe I have been overdoing it a bit,” or a DUI, or you physician’s review of your lab reports. And that may be as far as it goes and you can spend a very long time in what we refer to as “contemplation hell,” the condition of knowing you should, but……..

Preparation means gathering information and considering options. This too can go on forever…..

Action may start the change train rolling but the “wrong” action will have you shuttling onto a side track from which you may never get back on track. AA is by far the most popular “side track” but hardly the only one.

Maintenance occurs when the change has been made and enough time has passed, perhaps a year, that it’s no longer a change but your “new normal.” It’s also when you look back and wonder what took you so long.

Recycling involves the events which look like the resurrection of old behaviors. In Stepper parlance that would be called “relapse” but with that term’s implication that you are back to ground zero and must start all over it’s not only inaccurate but self-destructive. Think more along the lines of having lost 20 lbs., regained 2 over the holidays, and said on January 2, “Well, that’s isn’t awful, and I know how to lose them by the 15th.” That’s a far better and more realistic analogy than AA’s gloom and doom.

We all tend to resist change – even change we’ve decided we want to make. Therefore it’s easy to get stuck in Contemplation, Preparation, and even Action. Contemplation hell, endless Preparation, or Action which is only pretense will not constitute Change.

If you don’t want to stay stuck, or kid yourself, we’re happy to see you through with custom tailored Preparation, Action, and Maintenance with a good Recycling Plan thrown in.

Care to call?

Kicking the 12 Step Habit – Leaving AA and Similar Dead End Groups

The most popular pseudo-Action when it comes to drinking is joining AA. Yes, you may be one of the 3% – %5 who quit drinking but trading active drinking for sitting in “meetings” talking about drinking isn’t exactly progress. You’re still leading an alcohol-focused life.
The same can be said for most drinking and drugging “support” groups. Most, with the exception of short-term involvement in Smart Recovery, are just ways of pretending to do something about the problem while avoiding any actual change.
What can happen, however, is that you do actually stop drinking for awhile. When this occurs two things happen. First, depression begins to lift as you are no longer consuming large amounts of a depressant on a regular basis.
Second, and even more important, happens because alcohol is also a “regressant,” meaning it causes you to function at a pre-adolescent level emotionally and psychologically – the level at which AA and similar groups “work.” But once you stop drinking you begin to rebound to your normal adulthood.
To counteract this, the Steppers will demean, humiliate, intimidate and harass you in an attempt to keep you regressed to their isolated and simplistic world and life. Group pressure being what it is, and you – having no alternative model, support, or information – may well succumb to the cult mentality and, usually, return to drinking in order to stay reduced to the herd’s level.
The obvious alternative is to say, “Thank you for the respite I found here,” and leave to continue, as one client said, “to get a grip and get a life.”
Recovering – not to be confused with “being in recovery” – is a return to normal and “Normies,” associating with the people you want to emulate and pursuing activities you like unfettered by alcohol.
Need a bit of real, effective, and short-term help with that transition? We’re happy to provide that whenever you decide it’s time. Isn’t it time?