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So What’s All This Talk About Change?

To get from point A to point B in quitting a compulsive habit can be easier for some and harder for others. For some just realizing that the habit has brought on unexpected problems is enough for them to merely stop doing it any more. These are usually people who have a fairly strong sense of their own worth and value as an individual and as a human being. They easily see the long range value of quitting. But for many it is much more difficult to turn away from a habit that has been a satisfaction and substitute for something that seems to be missing. And which gives a sense of relaxation and a feeling of “completeness”.

When that is the case, the road to sobriety is a succession of efforts. And putting those efforts in a sensible order will greatly enhance its success. In the book, Changing For Good, James Prochaska outlines six stages of change.

The Stages of Change

Precontemplation, (What problem? Don’t bug me!) In which people don’t want to admit that they have a problem and even avoid any consideration of the subject. Some people stay in this stage of change for a long time and often experience growing problems. This difficult stage is often called “denial”.

Contemplation, (I want to change . . but then, I don’t) Which is probably where you are if you have read this far. You may well have mixed emotions about either quitting or just letting it all hang out and doing nothing about the problem. Here you at least become aware of your problems, struggle to understand them and even may think seriously about solving them.

Preparation, (I know I have to, but how?) Here is where you start to make decisions. While some people become chronic contemplators and substitute more and more analysis for action, the successful person will make decisions and prepare for them. At this stage, your personal outlook will start to reach more toward your future and less toward your past.

Action, (Now I’ve got the bull by the horns!) OK, this is where you take the plunge! But there is no “magic bullet”, and there is no cheap change. At this point you are very much on your own. You need all the helping relationships you can get and so you let your commitment be known to others, but you are doing this just for yourself. Be prepared, you may even get some disapproval of others, and experience some anxiety and anger. However these things will be temporary. Just review all the things you have established in your contemplation and preparation stages and stick to them.

Maintenance, (Gotta stay with it!) This is the great drama of quitting an addiction. You have considered and planned and decided to change your life and leave part of it behind with good riddance. But the bugaboo of temptation and lapse are always present. Therefore this stage needs plans and goals like all the others, you treat a lapse as just a temporary delay in forward progress and something that you can learn from. And you have the anchor of all your well-planned contemplation and preparation to rely on.

Termination, One day you will be able to look back and feel very good about your courage and determination in doing these right things in your life.