The Process for Maintaining Sobriety in a New Year
• January 2023 •
From Juan Navarro, Executive Director
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse
The Process for Maintaining Sobriety in a New Year
The things I like most about a New Year are the new opportunities it brings. For many people, that includes recovery from alcohol, drug, and/or mental health disorders. One thing that I don’t like about New Years Day is making resolutions, simply because they are typically doomed to failure. There’s just no process for maintaining them.
Luckily for people in recovery, there is a process. It’s called the Stages of Change model. It’s a way of describing the process by which people overcome addiction and lifestyle disorders. Of course, stages of change can be applied to a range of other behaviors that people want to change, but it’s most well-recognized for its success in treating people with addictions.
The model was developed from research that looked at how change occurs in ‘natural recovery’ from addictions. It’s been embraced by health care providers seeking to move away from confrontational and pathological approaches toward motivational and person-centered approaches.
Basically, there are four stages we all go through to get to successful and lasting change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action. Maintenance and relapse are also sometimes included as additional stages.
These stages are represented as a cycle. In theory, people go through the stages in sequence. In reality, we jump about between stages, go backward and forward, and can even be in more than one stage at a time. The sequential model provides a useful way of understanding the process of change, giving structure to how changes in addictive behaviors can be encouraged and managed.
In the precontemplation stage, we are not very interested in hearing about negative consequences or advice to quit our addiction. People experience addictive behavior as a positive or pleasant experience. Eventually, negative consequences do affect us – such as arrest. And it’s the negative consequences that can push people into the contemplation stage.
It is not unusual to be in the contemplation stage for many years. From here, we tend to move forward to the next phase — preparation stage — or we can move back to the precontemplation stage. Contemplators benefit from non-judgmental information-giving and motivational approaches to encouraging change (rather than confrontational methods).
In the preparation stage, we move forward to planning and preparing for carrying out changes we learned about in the contemplation stage. A typical objective in this phase is exploring treatment options.
Finally, the stage of change, action, involves active participation in a recovery program. If that’s something you or someone you care about needs, L.A. CADA can help. We’re here for you in 2023!
“My name is Suzie. I’ll be honest — recovery was really hard for me. I lived on what I call ‘the denial river’ and I liked it. Pot and alcohol to relax seems basically harmless, right? And they’re totally legal. When I got into meth to escape the pain of an abusive relationship, that’s when things got harder. I lost a good job and then I lost custody of my kids because of constant incarceration for theft, DUI, public intoxication, and eventually child endangering. I left then alone for days when I was on a run. It’s hard for people to understand that a mother still loves her kids when she does things like that, but it’s the truth. In fact, losing my kids was what brought me into treatment. I was lucky. I got into a program for women with kids. After I stabilized, I was able to bring my baby into the program with me and visit with my other children on weekends. We healed together. You asked if I have any advise for other people? Make more programs where addicted mothers can bring their kids. It made all the difference. Now, I’m 18 months clean and sober.”
SPOTLIGHT – THE EVIDENCE IS IN ON:
Use of the evidence-based Motivational Interviewing process is critical to moving people forward toward recovery. It’s used in the precontemplation and contemplation stages when people are not sure they want to change, or when they actively resist treatment.
Motivational Interviewing is an excellent counseling style to use with clients who are in these early stages. Precontemplators don’t want to be lectured to, or given action steps when they are not ready to change. Likewise, contemplators, who are considering the possibility of making a change but are not quite ready to make a commitment, people in this phase are resistant to more traditional approaches that encourage (or try to force) them to make changes for which they are not yet ready.
Through the use of Motivational Interviewing strategies, clinicians help clients examine their own particular situations, considering the pros and cons of changing, and making decisions about change. This is done in a non-threatening and supportive manner that encourages an individual to take responsibility for his or her own situation. The Motivational Interviewing philosophy, approach, and methods are uniquely suited to addressing the tasks and emotional reactions of individuals moving through the first stages of change.
Check Out: MI in Action