Long-term recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) requires a change in behavior. You cannot stay sober while engaging in the same activities you did before treatment. While in a treatment facility, you learn new techniques to start changing your behavior to maintain recovery.
After leaving treatment, continuing with these changes can be challenging – you are now faced with various outside influences. In order to change your behavior after leaving treatment, you must be able to find motivation.
Starting the Process
You may have various goals for yourself outside of treatment. No matter what your goal is or what behavior you want to change, you will most likely have to try several different ways of achieving that change. Behavior change is a process of trial and error.
When people do not succeed on their first try, they often get discouraged and give up. The key to achieving and maintaining behavior change for long-term recovery outcomes is to try new techniques and stay motivated. Change might not come easily, but there are ways you can change your behavior by staying motivated.
Using the Stages of Change Model
One of the best-known approaches to change is the stages of change or transtheoretical model. This therapeutic model is used in various treatment facilities to help you find the motivation to get and stay sober. The same principles can be applied outside of treatment to help you continue to find the motivation to stay sober and change your behavior.
Introduced in the 1970s, this model has been found to be effective in helping people understand how they go through a change in behavior. When using this model, change occurs gradually. It teaches you that people are often unwilling or resistant to change during the early stages, but will eventually develop a proactive and committed approach to changing behavior.
Stage 1: Precontemplation
In the first stage, precontemplation, you are often not considering changing your behavior. You may be described as “in denial," as you may not see your behavior as a problem. In some cases, you may also not understand that your behavior is harmful or damaging.
If you are in this stage, you can begin to move forward by asking yourself a few questions:
- Have you ever tried to change this behavior in the past?
- How do you recognize that you have a problem?
- What would have to happen for you to consider your behavior a problem?
Stage 2: Contemplation
During the stage of contemplation, you will begin to become more aware of the potential benefits changing your behavior will have. The costs of changing your behavior may still stand out more. Due to this conflict, you may feel a strong sense of ambivalence about changing.
Unfortunately, it is possible to never make it past the contemplation stage. This is because you may view change as a process of giving something up rather than a means of gaining emotional, mental, or physical benefits. If you are contemplating changing your behavior, some questions to ask yourself include:
- Why do you want to change?
- Is there anything preventing you from changing?
- What are some things that could help you make this change?
Stage 3: Preparation
During this stage, you may begin to make small changes to prepare for a bigger change. You might also take direct action, such as joining a support group or finding a therapist to continue therapy outside of treatment. If you are in the preparation stage, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of successfully making a lasting change, including:
- Gathering as much information as you can about ways to change your behavior
- Preparing a list of motivating statements
- Writing down your goals
- Finding resources such as support groups
Stage 4: Action
During the fourth stage of change, you will begin taking direct action to accomplish your goals. If you are currently taking action towards changing your behavior, congratulate and reward yourself for any positive steps you take. Remember, reinforcement and support – from yourself and others – are extremely important in helping maintain positive steps toward change. In order to maintain this change, take time to periodically review your motivation, resources, and progress; this can refresh your commitment and belief in yourself.
Stage 5: Maintenance
The maintenance phase of the stages of change model involves successfully avoiding former behaviors and keeping up with new behaviors. If you are trying to maintain a change in behavior, you can:
- Work on identifying and avoiding triggers and temptation
- Replace old habits with positive actions
- Reward yourself when you successfully maintain your new lifestyle
If you falter in your journey, do not be too hard on yourself, and do not give up. Instead, remind yourself that it was just a minor setback. You can always get back on the path of change.
In substance abuse treatment, you learn to use motivation to change your behavior in order to sustain long-term recovery. However, you may find it challenging to maintain this motivation and continue to change your behavior once you are in the outside world. Just as the stages of change model is used in treatment to help people find the motivation to choose sobriety, you can use the model outside of treatment to continue to better yourself. If you are struggling to change your behavior in recovery, NorthStar Transitions is here to support you. We can give you a place where you can connect with others who understand what you are going through. NorthStar Transitions is committed to providing the best for you, and that does not end once you have completed one of our treatment programs. To learn more about how we can support you in recovery, call us today at (303) 558-6400.