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Becoming motivated for recovery involves three things: Sensitizing ourselves to the reality and pain of the illness of addiction, developing hope that recovery will be a better solution, and removing any roadblocks to change, including arranging for the help we need to enter recovery. People used to think that “hitting bottom” is the beginning of recovery. This is not the case, as many people suffering from addiction fall into hopelessness and despair. In this state, we are at risk of feeling that we might as well continue to use. Instead of “hitting bottom,” we need to “wake up.” We need to wake up to the reality of what our addictions are doing to us and others and to the hopeful vision of a different life free from addiction—a life of joyful recovery.
To transform the pain of addiction into the hope of recovery, we need to remind ourselves that the darkest times in our lives can be the most important times, as their dark clouds come with the silver lining of the possibility of change. Our pain is not an enemy; it is a friend. It is Nature telling us that things are not right and we need to change. Without pain, there would be no change, as it would be foolish of Nature to change something that is working well. We need to embrace our pain as an invaluable experience that prods us to improve our lives.
The following exercises help in making the decision to choose recovery:
- Make a list of the pros and cons of your addiction and of recovery. If there is someone you trust who is nonjudgmental, invite his or her input as well. Making a decision matrix, such as the one below, is a good way to organize and visualize the pros and cons of addiction vs. recovery:
|Addiction (e.g., Alcohol)||· Relaxes me.
· Feels pleasurable.
· Helps me to socialize with people.
· Gives me something to do.
|· I miss work due to hangovers. My job is in jeopardy.
· My spouse is upset with my drinking. Drinking has replaced my relationship.
· I have high blood pressure.
· I had a recent arrest for DUI.
· I have difficulty sleeping.
· I am feeling depressed and anxious.
· I feel guilty and ashamed.
· I feel out of control.
|Recovery||· Saves my work and my marriage.
· Reduces risks of an early death.
· Removes my guilt and shame.
· Improves my sleep.
· Reduce my depression and anxiety.
· Make me more productive
· Helps me find some peace
· Eliminates boredom.
|· I have to give up something that feels good when I do it.
· It will take time and effort.
· It will initially leave me not knowing what to do with myself.
· I may have to go through detox and withdrawal.
· I’m ashamed. I don’t want to have to ask anybody for help.
- Start a recovery journal. Begin with a detailed history of your use of drugs or alcohol or engaging in behavioral addictions. Go from the very beginning up until the current time, noting what you used, what you did, and what happened as a result. Be careful to note any and all negative consequences of your addictions.
- Make a list of the most important things and people in your life. Write about your life goals and dreams. Write about what you most want in life. Then, write about how your addictions affect these.
- Ask trusted friends and family what they think and feel about your drug use. Work to understand as much as you can the impact your addictive behavior has had on them.
- Once you are very clear on the damage your addictions cause you and those around you, it is time to work on the positive aspects of a life of recovery. Write down a list of all the benefits of recovery that come to mind. What dreams will you be able to realize? What goals will you be able to accomplish? What relationships will be salvaged and improved when you choose to be in recovery? Make a list of your reasons for recovery on a small card and carry it with you, pulling it out periodically to reflect on the hope of recovery. This is a carrot and stick approach…the stick being the painful consequences of addiction, and the carrot being the rewards of recovery. With the pain of addiction and the rewards of recovery made clear, we now have the motivation to change.