In recent articles I have explained how drawing up your own personal For And Against Decision Making Chart gives you an opportunity to think clearly about any important decision that you might be struggling with. It can be any difficult decision when you can’t decide what to do.
Whenever you are finding it difficult to come to a decision, it will because you have competing For and Against motives, otherwise it wouldn’t be a difficult decision – if you already know what you want to do, you just do it. No problem. Difficult decisions are difficult because there is conflict between several different and competing options. These options, or motives, are pulling you in different directions, and you cannot make up your mind which path to follow.
For example, you might wish you could stop obeying the cravings of your addiction, and live your future life in recovery, but the need to continue your addiction is strong, and besides, you are not yet completely sure that stopping your addiction is what you really want to do.
Whenever you decide to change anything you do now, and do things differently in the future, you will not succeed in your plans unless you genuinely want to change. You might be able to do things differently for a while by relying on your will power, but unless you actively want to change, it’s highly likely that you will fail in the long term.
It’s Not About What You Think You Ought To Do.
Making a decision based purely on the fact that you know what you ought to do, may be admirable, but it is very unlikely that such a motive will be a stronger driver of your behavior than what, deep down, you really want to do. Your For and Against Chart will sort out how you really feel about any decision problem you are facing. Then you can work out whether you really do want to change, or not, or at least…. not yet.
Just drawing up such a chart is an important step in the decision making process, because it forces you to analyze what you really think and feel about all sides of the issue.
Suppose you’ve completed your For and Against Chart, and decide that your Readiness to Change Score today is currently only around 2 or 3. You might know that you ought to change, for dozens of reasons, but right now, you don’t want to change - so it’s highly likely that any attempt to change right now will probably not last. Now you have 2 options.
You can either put away your chart and continue living a life dominated by addiction, or you can reach out to find help to find ways to shift your balance of motives up to a higher Readiness to Change score – and that can only be done by getting yourself to a position where you do actually want to change.
Rehab and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you do that.
CBT Step One: To Thine Own Self Be True
The core of CBT is to provide time and opportunity for you to think deeply and honestly about who you are, what you do, and why you do it – and to understand why you are, who you are. The person that you’ve become over the years, depends on what, and how, you think and feel – about everything – not just your addiction. It might sound easy to work that out, but many people never really think about why they behave as they do – they just do it, and then wonder why things always go so wrong – or not, if they are lucky.
Being truly honest with yourself is one of the hardest things for anyone to do, but if you have developed an addiction, it is likely that you have been in denial for a great deal of your life, so for you, it is especially difficult – and courageous.
So the first step in CBT is honest self-examination about you yourself, your relationships, and your past. But you will not have to do this alone. Your health professionals will help you to go deep, and explore all of your motives, fears, anxieties, etc that make you the person that you are today.
If you are in a residential rehab, you will have a variety of ways to do this. Usually, you will have a combination of one-on-one counseling, group counseling, and family counseling. Another advantage of being in a residential rehab program, is that you are given plenty of opportunity to be alone – an opportunity for quiet reflection. These matters take time to sort out, and a great deal of honest thinking has to occur if rehab is going to succeed. Rehab is a good place to do it.
CBT Step Two – Learning New Ways to Solve Old Problems: Over-coming the Powerful Driving Force of Retained Memories
In a previous article, I explained the concept of Retained Memory (see Addiction & The Highway to Hell), and why that is at the heart of the struggle to overcome addiction. Your Retained Memories will always want you to continue doing what you have always done in the past – obey the drives of your addiction. The challenge of Rehab and CBT is to help you to learn how to lay down new neural pathways – memory pathways, over the top of the old destructive retained memories, and then nurture the new ways of thinking, feeling, reacting and behaving until the new ways become stronger than the compulsions of the old ways.
How Will Rehab & CBT Help You?
You will be encouraged to think about how you solve problems. At first, you will be encouraged to think about how you have usually solved problems in the past, and whether that has contributed to increasing your reliance on your addiction, or not. Then you will learn new ways to solve problems – ways that do not result in you falling back on your addiction, in order to avoid solving them.
You will learn to understand why you feel and react to situations in the way you always have done in the past, especially when it results in a loss of control of your behaviour.
You will learn to be able to recognize high-risk situations – situations that are likely to trigger the old addiction-related Retained Memory pathways that are still there in your brain.
Then you will learn new ways to think, feel and react when you find yourself in these high-risk situations – ways that allow you to retain control of your emotions and behaviour in the face of temptations.
Once you understand why you think, feel, and behave in the way that you do, you can begin to change all of those factors.
You will learn all about addiction and why it has such a powerful hold over people. You will learn to watch out for all the tricks that your addiction will try in order to get you to go back to your old ways and do what your addiction wants, not what you want. If you know what to watch out for, you are less likely to fall for your addiction’s wily ways.
Rehab & CBT Will Give You Strength & Restore Hope
Many people with addiction feel defeated and hopeless, and have little faith in the ability of rehab to help them when everything they have ever tried in the past has always failed. They probably feel that they themselves are failures, even if it’s difficult for them to admit that publicly.
One of the major goals of rehab and CBT is to restore hope — hope that you can succeed, and that you can live a life not controlled by your addiction. Your health professionals, and some of your fellow inmates will try to let you see that your situation is not really hopeless after all. How? By showing you, and explaining to you that no situation is ever hopeless, even if you might believe that it is.
Thoughts, beliefs, and feelings are not set in concrete
People, events and new information can change how we think, feel and behave
For a good example of how thoughts, feelings and beliefs that had been held for many years, can be dramatically changed in under one minute, see How and Why I Gave Up Smoking! Believe me, humiliation is a powerful motivator! The ‘information’ I received that day allowed me to quit smoking – when up until that day, I did not believe it would ever be possible. It wasn’t easy, but I discovered that it was possible, as long as my motives to change were stronger than my motives to continue.
My Readiness to Change Score immediately after receiving my new, humiliating ‘information’ was probably around 8 – 9. Yes, only 8 – 9, not 10 – because I wasn’t truly confident that I could actually do it, but as it turned out, my motivation to change continued to win the balance of power struggle, and I was finally able to overcome my smoking addiction.
There is a good chance that during rehab, you will be given information, and discover new information for yourself, about every aspect of addiction in general, and your addiction in particular. That new information can change how you feel about your ability to overcome your addiction. This will be in addition to what you learn about yourself and others through the process of clear and honest self examination.
Information can change lives. Information can change feelings – we all know that. We discover that our partner has been cheating on us, and things will never be the same again. Our thinking and feelings have been changed, no matter how we might try to deny it – new information can change everything you previously thought was true.
Through increased knowledge, education, self examination and support during rehab, you will understand how what you feel, controls what you do – and then learn new ways to react to situations you will encounter again in the world outside your Rehab facility. Then, by the time you leave rehab, you will be mentally and emotionally stronger, and better informed about yourself, your relationships, and your addiction. You will be better equipped to deal with all the old temptations in new and healthier ways, so you will be able to either avoid, or resist those temptations that will always exist for you in the outside world.
It’s the challenge of health professionals, with the help and support of the community, family and friends, to try to help people with addictions to reach a point where their personal For and Against Balance Sheet can be made to come down on the side of wanting to change. Once that choice has been sincerely made, and Recovery is now their desired goal, they can be helped to succeed in that choice. Then the difficult personal struggle to successfully implement that change, begins. But with help and support, all things are possible.