People are battling addictions of all kinds and sometimes treatment seems to be getting them nowhere. But when the “moment of change” comes things can begin to turn around. Let’s reflect on the moment of change.
Frank was like most addicts for whom daily life revolves around getting and using drugs or alcohol: he knew he was made for a better life.
“I knew this wasn’t the life I was supposed to live, and I knew I wasn’t supposed to be the person who was doing and saying the things I was doing and saying,” he said in an interview.
But like many addicts, Frank was also convinced he didn’t have what it took to change. By the time he finally entered treatment, his addiction had estranged him from his family. He had relapsed multiple times and experienced the death of a girlfriend to an opiate overdose. An addiction to “opiates, mixed with Xanax, weed, and alcohol,” in Frank’s words, so defined his sense of self that it was hard to move from merely contemplating change as a possibility to embracing and actualizing it as a reality.
What’s Key to Meaningful Transformation?
Fast forward six years later. Today Frank is successfully in recovery and feels happy and fulfilled in his personal and professional life. How did he get here? With a lot of hard work, self-discipline and support.
As is often the case with people in recovery, though, these things didn’t just materialize out of the blue. They came about as the result of one “moment of change,” one identifiable point in time that proved to be the vehicle for meaningful transformation.
Connection with Others and the Discovery You’re Not Alone
Frank’s turning point happened during treatment. He recalls sitting in a therapy group with other clients, listening to their stories of shame, addiction and despair. For Frank, the experience of group therapy was “eye-opening, because I got to hear and see all these people with all these different drugs of choice and all these different backgrounds,” he said.
All of that collected diversity of experience in one room only amplified a powerful realization. “When you really boiled it down, we all had the same story and were feeling the same pain. I realized I wasn’t alone,” Frank recalls.
This “aha” moment is what set Frank on a trajectory towards recovery. It was the recognition that he was not alone in his pain—that others were in the same boat waging a similar battle with addiction and could understand where he was coming from, because they were there, too. The particulars of their substance abuse may have differed. But their shared experience of pain and isolation was one and the same. This experience of human connection was what Frank needed to summon up enough hope to be able to act on the belief that his life really could change for the better.
Frank’s moment of change teaches the following lessons:
- Addiction is a disease of isolation, but genuine human connection can give people with substance use disorders a reason to hope for a better life and the courage to change.
- Mutual vulnerability forges human connection, and, in turn, can motivate positive transformation.
- Positive transformation can begin with a small group of people in a room sharing openly and honestly about their shared struggle to find recovery. This may be one reason some people in 12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous choose to refer to their “Higher Power” as the group itself.
Finding Your Turning Point to Get Treatment
These lessons suggest that you don’t have to passively wait around for the first inklings of real change to magically happen to you, nor do you need to gamble on the prospect of experiencing a moment of change at some later point in rehab. You can find everything you need to move towards recovery today. Here are three tips to help you:
- Visit a 12-step or other recovery support group in your area. Listen attentively to others in the room and share your own experience with addiction. Note the sense of inner relief and connectedness to others that emerge as a result.
- Confide in just one person you trust (and who wants you to be happy and healthy). Tell them what you’re going through. Be vulnerable about your struggle and why it’s hard for you to picture a successful recovery. Ask them for their help and support in taking the next step to get treatment.
- Practice naming your addiction aloud, even if it’s only to yourself. Then pat yourself on the back for having the honesty and courage to face your problem.
Overcoming a Resistance to Change
Recovery from addiction is hard to achieve because resistance to change is a universal human instinct. Even when the change is for our own good—for our health or happiness, for example—fears about what we’ll lose in the process of changing can keep us stuck in the same old patterns of behavior that are killing us. All too often, the security of what we know is preferable to the insecurity of what we don’t know. But as Frank’s story suggests, the simple recognition that you’re not alone and that others are on the journey with you may be all that you need to step into a better life: the life that you were supposed to live.
About the Author
Anna Ciulla is the Vice President of Clinical and Medical Services at Beach House Center for Recovery. She oversees the supervision and delivery of client care. Anna has an extensive background in psychotherapy and clinical management. This includes more than 20 years of experience helping individuals and families affected by addiction and co-occurring disorders find recovery.