Addiction and Changing Your Ways

Talk is cheap, but action takes work. For anyone making a change, from dieting to preparing for a new career, the hardest part is finding out how to make it happen. A person struggling with addiction faces the added challenge of managing a disease along with behavior.

Making a Decision

Addiction and Changing Your Ways

Even the hardest change, changing habits, is possible by dividing a goal into small steps

Change often starts with a first step that creates a chain reaction of further steps. While long-lasting change may take years to master, the decision to get started is what really matters. Georgetown University professor Kurt A. Carlson says a person must understand he makes a choice every day. He adds, “The only way to realize positive change in your life is by making choices.” Even behaviors that seem the hardest to change can be controlled with choice — including habits and normative behaviors. Habits are actions we take without thinking, such as the choice to smoke a cigarette after waking up. Normative behaviors are standard rules expected by society. Not all normative behaviors must be followed, however. A person may want to cut the tags out of clothes or openly question a statement made by a parent. Making the decision to change is a choice—just as making the decision to do nothing is a choice.[1]

Sticking to Change

A person beginning a diet decides on a plan then begins cutting out certain foods. It may be easy for him to begin because he’s excited about making a change. Or, it may be just another diet in a long line of failed diets, and his excitement for it is low. Making a major change, such as deciding to lose a large amount of weight or stop taking drugs, is hard because the mind perceives change as stressful. The easiest way to end the stress is to give in, but that makes it impossible to meet the goal. To better manage the stress of change, a person must remember why the change is necessary — losing weight will lead to better health or quitting drugs will improve relationships. The act of seeing the positive outcomes beforehand makes the change easier and actually changes the brain. Every time a step toward change is made, it gets easier to make the change stick over time.[2]

Finding Help for Change

Deciding to end addiction may be complicated. First, there are physical aspects of the disease. A person may need to go through a period of detoxification and the idea of painful withdrawal symptoms may seem too hard. Second, it’s necessary to change habits and learn coping techniques to handle the behavioral aspects of the disease. Learning new behaviors to fight drug and alcohol use are challenging. Specialized treatment facilities that address the physical and behavioral symptoms of addiction offer the most comprehensive treatment for the disease. The decision to change is a valuable first step, but to make progress it’s necessary to find ways to make change permanent.

Facilities that offer evidence-based treatments use motivation enhancement strategies to increase a person’s response to treatment. Every step of change, pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance, benefits from support. But the key to changing behavior is to become part of the goal-setting process. The motivation to change is a fluid process. People may progress from one stage to the other and then fall back to initial stages fairly often. Staying ready to change requires the ability to take responsibility for the decision to make positive change and the willingness to see the good outcomes that will come from the change.[3]

Need Help Fighting Addiction?

Lasting change is possible and it starts with a single decision to make life different. There are many reasons to seek addiction treatment. A person may seek treatment after realizing drugs or alcohol have taken over his life, while another is forced into treatment by a court action or family intervention. Once in treatment, real change is possible no matter how a person ended up in rehab.

Don’t let an addiction to drugs or alcohol keep you from leading a healthy, happy life. If you or a loved one has an addiction or is in danger of relapsing, call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are standing by with treatment options that are right for your situation. Don’t wait another day to find help, call today.


[1] Carlson, Kurt A. The Only Way to Make Positive Change in Your Life. Psychology Today. Retrieved Dec. 13, 2015 from

[2] Law, Bridget Murray. Trying to Get Your Brain On Board With Changing Your Life? ASHA Convention Keynoter Kelly McGonigal Shared What the Research Says. The ASHA Leader Blog (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). Retrieved Dec. 13, 2015 from

[3] Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1999). Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 35.