“Change is never painful. Only the resistance to change is painful.” – Buddha
So often in early addiction recovery (or later for that matter, after months and years of being sober/clean), we find ourselves facing either relationship issues, work-related matters or other “life situations” that require us to change how we’ve approached them in the past. And if I’ve learned anything in recovery, it’s that the sooner I let go of my resistance to change, the better off I’m going to be.
What makes change so difficult is a rather philosophical matter, but a short answer is we’re (at least most of us) generally afraid of the unknown and “comfortable” with what’s familiar to us. The problem with having a substance abuse disorder is we’re likely to have amplified levels of this dynamic and we’ve consciously or unconsciously developed maladaptive strategies to “get what we want* when we want it” (*: alcohol or drugs). After years of repeating, over and over, the attitudes and behaviors associated with these strategies (e.g., lying, cheating and stealing), it’s no wonder very few of us, if any, come into recovery and find it easy to make the attitudinal and behavioral changes necessary to get and stay sober/clean.
In fact, most often, we feel resistant to changing… anything! But we’re told from the get-go—by treatment center staff, addictions counselors, 12 Steps sponsors and those who’re in our recovery network—that in order to successfully “lose the desire” to drink or use drugs and maintain that newfound freedom, one day at a time, we need to make way for some “ground-floor up” changes to occur. And two of the most valuable principles we can use to help us in overcoming any resistance to that necessary transformation are open-mindedness and willingness.
Bringing those two principles into play in our recovery in three areas of our lives—body, mind and spirit—can literally make a world of difference in the quality of our recovery.
There’s no doubt we all could benefit, when we’re in early recovery, from implementing progressively healthier changes in our eating, sleeping and exercise habits (i.e., “body”). Similarly, when we were in the throes of our addiction, most of us put mental development, studies and education (i.e., “mind”) onto our daily list of things to do only if we had to; for example, to keep our licensure or credentials intact. (And even that often got set aside!) As far as keeping spiritually fit (“spirit”), our drinking or drug use virtually always took a front seat before we came into addiction treatment, whether through an alcohol and drug treatment program, an impaired professionals program or a 12 Steps program.
And therefore, the condition and overall health of our bodies, minds and spirits typically suffered greatly. The reality is, when we get into recovery, we quickly learn that even if we start to eat better, get to bed at a more reasonable hour, devote a little time each day to exercise, do some daily reading, writing and recovery-related study, and start the process of exploring ways to develop ourselves spiritually, the “old habits” don’t die off so easily. We may hear voices of resistance arise in our head telling us, “It’s too hard” or “What’s the use?”
Knowing up front we’re going to need to lean strongly upon the suggestions of treatment staff members and those who we’ve seen have been successful in their recovery will allow us to commit more easily to keeping an open mind and willingness to strengthening our own recovery program, specifically with regard to developing new regimens for transforming our physical, mental and spiritual health. And that means taking and making some suggested changes and sticking to them, to the very best of our abilities.
We don’t have to do it all at once or perfectly, either. Marci Shimoff, a personal transformation teacher and NY Times bestselling author, says, “To make the maximum progress, you don’t need to take huge leaps. You just have to take baby steps and keep on taking them.”
Ultimately, we’ll overcome our resistance to change best by choosing to do things differently—in the dimensions of our body, mind and spirit—and we’ll be able to make those choices, for a new life in freedom from addiction, a whole lot easier if we commit ourselves to adopting an attitude of open-mindedness and willingness, one day at a time.