People are motivated to change all the time. In fact, changing our behavior is something we learn from a very young age. Babies learn to cry to get fed, changed or handed back to mothers. Toddlers throw fits to get what they want until they’re taught that saying ‘please’ is a much more effective strategy. Even in the adult world, employees are motivated to work hard to receive a raise or promotion, parents are motivated to drive cautiously to keep the kids safe, and individuals are motivated to workout to stay healthy and fit.

But what about a case in which a person is motivated to pursue damaging behaviors, such as substance use? What are those motivations, and can they be changed?  

Motivation to act

Motivation is internal. People might be motivated to do the same thing for different reasons or do different things for the same reason. Usually, people aren’t driven to make damaging choices willingly. So in the instance of substance use, the motivation lies in the belief that life with substances is better than life without them. Even though a person may recognize that substance use is unhealthy and detrimental, they may be so averse to the realities of life without the substance that the motivation to continue using is that much stronger. 

Can this mentality be changed? 

Technically speaking, yes, this mindset can be changed and people can absolutely become free of addiction. In order to begin the journey to healing, certain steps need to be taken and mentalities addressed in order to positively influence a change. 

  • Be compassionate – No one is going to change if they don’t sense that it comes from a place of care. If you care for a person, you want what is best for them. Perhaps you desire them to end an unhealthy relationship, to have a difficult conversation with their boss or to quit smoking because you know that to do so would be in their best interest. Unless the other feels this genuine level of care and compassion, they might be resistant to change. 
  • Take fear into consideration- Many, many people are motivated by fear. They fear what the change might bring, what it would require of them and the instability of transitioning from one lifestyle to another. Even though they may recognize substance use as damaging, the fear of life without it is too great a fear to overcome.
  • Understand ambivalence – When it comes to substance use, most people who struggle are aware of the damaging effects it has on their life. This is known as ambivalence, where the individual is not ignorant to the benefits of change or incompetent in the skills required to change, yet they continue to use. In fact, this is a completely normal stage of belief in substance users. 

Ambivalence is one of the key roadblocks to changing behavior. Because addiction to substances manipulates normal functions in the brain, a person struggling with addiction begins to build their identity around this addiction, creating (or worsening) an image of low self-esteem and insecurity. This mindset in addition to substance use, creates a difficult pattern of life to break on one’s own.

Motivational interviewing 

This is where motivational interviewing comes into play during the healing journey. Motivational interviewing helps people address that mindset of low self-esteem and insecurity and build a confidence which in the end helps overcome the need to rely on substances. 

Motivational interviewing takes into consideration the truth that change comes from within, from an internal desire to be better, or a conclusion that the alternative behavior (i.e. living substance-free) is better than the current one. It is a unique approach to counseling where the counselor says very little and instead listens to the client as he/she works through the problem and addresses concerns themselves.

It is not directly trying to persuade the client that substance abuse is dangerous; rather, it is asking questions which prompt the client to come to their own conclusions, thereby building self-esteem and realizing from their own internal compass that they do not want to live a life dictated by substances. 

Change is possible 

Changing a behavior is never easy, especially if it revolves around an addictive substance. However, it’s a massive step of courage to recognize that one’s pattern of behavior is causing more harm than good and then take the steps necessary to reach entire freedom. At Silver Ridge Recovery, we see it as a gift when clients journey through the mentality of living substance-free as not just what they “should do,” but something which they deeply come to desire and strive towards. Reach out to Silver Ridge Recovery today or call (855) 945-7788 to pursue real change – away from substance use habits and toward freedom through recovery.