I attended a meeting last night, and it was fantastic. One of the topics we discussed had to do with the stages of change. Even with all my relapses, I would have said that I had been in the Action phase of recovery. Action is described as:
The act of quitting drinking seemed to qualify to me. What bigger action is there than that? What I realized last night, however, is that I was in the varying stages of Pre-Contemplation and Contemplation all this time.
It’s not really that I was relapsing fifty billion times- it’s that I never really stopped drinking. Sure, I stopped for a day or two- or even a week or more- but I was not modifying my behavior or my surroundings. The only commitment of time and energy I expended was to white-knuckle my way through the day, hoping like crazy I wasn’t going to break down and drink.
What was missing was the Action part of the Action phase. I have to DO something different in order to get different results. It sounds ridiculously simple, but honestly, until last night, I just did not get it.
Happily, I had already started making some fundamental changes before last night’s meeting. Now that I understand the stages better, and understand where my behavior fits in with each of them, I can confidently say that I’m finally in the Action stage of change, and I can point to concrete examples of the changes that moved me out of Contemplation and Planning, into Action.
Some of them are:
- Attending meetings (including the meeting I attended last night)
- Committing to daily meditation – I’m still learning how to do this, so I downloaded a fantastic 21 day meditation series to help me with this one
- Counseling – I realize I cannot do this completely by myself. I have a lot of stuff swimming in my head that makes self-medicating a very tempting proposition. I need help clearing out the muck. I MADE AN APPOINTMENT AND EVERYTHING
- Journaling and Workbooks – Actively working my recovery, and not sitting around hoping sobriety will find me some day.
I know that sobriety does not just happen. I have to make it happen, and then I have to make it stick. All of those things require ACTION. I’m learning that putting down the bottle, while perhaps the most important step in the process, was just that – merely a step in a series of many that I need to take.
Then, I need to keep doing it.