Is Overcoming Addiction Possible?
When struggling with addictions, it may seem impossible to imagine a life without substance use. You know the cycle:
…do well for a time,
…start feeling better,
…think you can do just a little,
…perhaps, be in control for a while,
…full blown relapse,
…ending at the bottom of the barrel…..
You may be saying “I want to change” but nothing ever changes. You tell yourself “Things will be different this time” and end up in the same place – or worse. So you believe it’s inevitable, it’s your fate in life and nothing can make things better. While change may be possible for others, you are doomed to a life of alcohol and drug abuse and trapped in the grips of addiction. You start to believe “It’s just who I am.” There is no hope for change.
This is a common feeling in addictions and is due to something called “ambivalence.” Ambivalence is two conflicting desires pulling you in opposite directions. The dictionary defines it as “the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.”
As an addict you know this feeling all too well. Feeling torn in two with being sick and tired and wanting to do what you know is right, while enjoying the high of the drug or behavior and not wanting to give it up. The battle is intense and pulls you in two directions, back and forth until you give in. But the more you battle, the worse it gets and the spiral of addiction has you trapped. It’s a love-hate relationship. When it’s good it’s sooooo good, and when it’s bad….. well, you know the bottom all too well.
You want to change, but despite your best efforts it just doesn’t happen. Maybe you even have others tell you “You’ll never change.” Your track record certainly supports their pessimism. But they don’t see the battle within with the desire to change against the desire to use.
The first step to change is to recognize this battle as a normal part of change. Everyone experiences ambivalence when faced with change. It is possible to work through the ambivalence and choose to change.
To explore this ambivalence, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the benefits of staying the same?
- What is it costing me to stay the same?
- What would it cost me to change?
- What are the benefits of changing?
- What do I want most in life?
- If things continue as they are, where will I be in five years?
- If I were to stop the addictive behaviour, what would my life be like five years from now?
While you can stay stuck in ambivalence for years, finding answers to your ambivalence can help you to move forward. Counselling can be helpful to explore your ambivalence and make and stick to the changes you want in your life. In over 20 years of working with addictions, I have seen numerous clients find hope, reach goals and making lasting long term changes. Ambivalence doesn’t have to last forever, change is possible. You can have the life you long for.
Carol Wilson is a Certified Counsellor and specializes in the areas of addiction, depression, self esteem and couples work as well as many others. For more information on Carol, her work, or other articles she’s written for Living Well click here to link to her full bio page.