Motivation and Recovery From Addiction

When considering motivation and recovery from addiction, there are basically three types of motivation: submission to external pressure, calculation, and commitment. A person can recovery through any of these motivations, but they’re not all equally effective.

The first is when someone comes to treatment because a judge orders it, an attorney recommends it because he wants it to look good in court, a spouse threatens to leave if the person doesn’t get treatment, an employer gives an ultimatum of get addiction treatment or get fired, etc. Succumbing to external pressure is the weakest form of motivation. Leverage such as this is a powerful motivator to get someone in treatment, but getting in treatment and getting into recovery aren’t the same. If a person who’s forced into treatment doesn’t realize the severity of the problem and doesn’t get involved in their treatment, then they’re just killing time to meet the requirements of those who forced them into treatment. They aren’t really forced, because they have the freedom to refuse and face the consequences, but many find the consequences too dire, so they agree to go to treatment. Most people forced into treatment don’t do well, but for some it’s a wake up call. When we consider statistics related to treatment success, these clients bring the success rate down because they never intended to recover from addiction to begin with, just satisfy a judge, spouse or employer. Although the motivation to keep a spouse, stay out of jail, or keep a job is strong, once a little time goes by and everyone is off the person’s back, they usually return to the their drug use (remember, alcohol is a drug).

The second form when considering motivation and recovery from addiction is calculation. This is when a person looks at what drugs have done to them and makes a rational calculation that it’s costing too much money, they’re taking to many risks legally and healthwise, they’re spending too much time away from family, so on and so forth. This motivation is stronger because at least the person’s considering recovery and has given addiction recovery some thought. Most people who talk with someone who’s calculated the risks and decides to give recovery a try think this person is doing great and is ready to change for good. Calculation is stronger than submission to pressure, but it’s still not enough for most addicts who’ve been using for a long time. What happens is that as long as the calculation proves to be a wise move, then all is well, but once there are bumps in the road, and there will be bumps, the person re-calculates and might say something like “things are worse in recovery” – they might start thinking about using/drinking again. Just because someone stops drinking alcohol or using some other drug doesn’t mean every thing will progressively get better with no problems. Life’s full of problems whether someone’s an addict or not. A person can get into treatment and everything can be fine, but then a spouse can tell the person they want a divorce. The person in early recovery can get fired. Something the person did before might catch up with them and they get into legal trouble. If a person gets sober and straight because they calculate everything will always be good and positive, then they’re setting themselves up for disappointment and likely a relapse.

The third form when considering motivation and recovery from addiction is commitment. This is when a person accepts they suffer from a chronic brain disease and commit to recovery no matter what happens. This person usually knows that it will be hard but they commit to follow directions and do all the things necessary to recover and deal with life as it is, not how they imagine it should be or pretend it is. This person knows no matter how bad things get, drinking or using only makes it worse. The person who commits to recovery from addiction accepts help and realizes he/she can’t do it alone. The person who commits follows through and decides to stay sober and straight one day at time, knowing they might still crave the drug, but choosing to use all the recovery tools to not take the first drink or first hit, or first snort, or first pill, whatever drug changes their perception of reality.

As I wrote above, a person can recover from any form of motivation, but it usually has to progress to commitment for the recovery to be strong and lasting.

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