True change comes from within

by David on February 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 12, 2012:

When talking about helping a person change, it is often said that, You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. (That’s actually a proverb dating all the way back to the twelfth century.)

And it’s been found to be true that confronting an individual about changing usually has the opposite desired effect. The more you press for change, the more the individual resists and becomes defensive.

Most addicts can be described as ambivalent about change. Many would rather continue using despite the overwhelming evidence of the destructiveness of the addictive behavior — the hallmark of addiction. My own ambivalence about my drug use in the past can be put in numerical terms.

From my first use at 14 to about 18, about 20% of me wanted to use, and the other 80% percent not. At 19, I tried ecstasy for the first time and went to 99% wanting to use and 1% not. That’s where I stayed, living only to get high, until I started having problems at around 24.

I still mostly wanted to use, however I could see the benefits of sobriety, so I hovered around 70/30 for a while.

After going to prison the first time, I really wanted to quit, but the desire was too strong, it was a flame that just would not burn out, so I was about 55/45.

It wasn’t until four years into my second prison sentence that I reached 50/50. Half of me wanted to use, the other half wanted to quit. I was a walking contradiction. I could go to an AA meeting and then go back to my cell and get drunk. Ambivalence is not a strong enough word.

I finally tipped the scales in favor of quitting, and with a lot of hard work, I made it to 1/99. (I have to give my drug dreams — nightmares — at least one percent.) I don’t know if any of this makes any sense to you, but I am talking about a behavior that doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve gotten completely off track here. I’ve been reading this book, it’s actually a textbook for graduate-level counseling and psychotherapy courses (so I may be in a little over my head here) called Motivational Interviewing. It’s written by William Miller and Stephen Rollnick.

They define motivation as being “ready, willing, and able,” and they emphasize that motivational interviewing, or MI as it’s called, is a method of communication rather than a set of techniques that help the “client” obtain intrinsic motivation for change.

Intrinsic motivation — doing it for yourself — is the opposite of extrinsic motivation — doing it for a family member, to keep a job, or to please a judge.

MI focuses on the fact that true change comes from within the individual and it differs from coercive and confrontational methods that create defensiveness and resistance.

I’ll leave you with this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.

Running Away From Me.

Buy Running Away From Me as a Kindle format ebook.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Herzanek February 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I know that for me…I started out quitting because I wanted to keep my job. Somewhere along the way God gave me the “want to” for myself as I found myself embracing the sober lifestyle and also being so stubborn and proud—I didn’t want others to see that I had failed in being sober….so I knew that my drinking days were over for good!

Barbara Reeves February 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm

When addiction is written in the terms that David has expressed, it gives me a deeper, clearer understanding that very few people are able to achieve. Blessings to you!

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