People often wonder when the addicts in their life “really mean it” when they say they’re ready to change. All too often, addicts have a tendency to pull the proverbial rug out from under their loved ones through promises to change that are seldom kept. I do believe, however, that all people are capable of positive growth and that when someone is ready to really move forward in a healthy way, that person exhibits various thoughts/behaviors that do indicate that they “really mean it” when they say they’re changing. Three (3) of those thoughts/behaviors that I’ve observed in people who are growing towards health are: 1) A sense of gratitude for the “blessings” in life; 2) Genuine humility expressed through understanding that everyone has their own challenges and that no one is perfect; and, 3) And a deep and real sense of forgiveness, both of self and of others who may have harmed them in the past.
When someone is active in their addiction, I’ve witnessed a sense of entitlement that anything the addict does is justifiable and oddly, people “owe” the addict help for past wrongs he or she may have faced. The idea that love is expressed through enabling behaviors such as providing money runs rampant within the active addict’s mind; when someone tells an addict, “No,” the addict often takes this no to mean that the person simply doesn’t love the addict. However, when an addict is turning the corner, he or she realizes and expresses that there is a lot of good in life and is grateful for his or her life experiences. This sense of gratitude then extends into how the addict treats others because when someone is grateful, there exists a real appreciation for the people who love him or her. This appreciation and gratitude often feed into humility.
Addicts tend to want to be in control of all aspects of their lives, even of the people with who they relate. There’s often an arrogance to the active addict that extends their sense of entitlement. However, if the addict has realized that life is a gift, he or she tends to then express real humility exhibited in listening to others and becoming accountable and responsible for his or her actions. To me, humility is a requirement for committing to a treatment program and when an addict has found that sense of humble appreciation, he or she is far more willing to follow his or her treatment program.
To me, though, the strongest indicator of readiness to change is a sense of forgiveness. On too many occasions to count, I’ve heard an active addict blame someone else for his or her addiction. Whether true or not, when someone allows anger and blame to foster for a past wrong, there comes a time when the blame is nothing more than a smoke and mirrors tactic that the addict can use to manipulate people. Further, when someone becomes ashamed of his or her own past failures, then that person tends to become self-loathing. If, however, that person learns to forgive him or herself, then he or she can be freed of the shame that has held bound them. Forgiveness of self and others allows real communication to occur, as once anger is gone, people can listen instead of trying to project their sense of pain.
Therefore, if an addict expresses gratitude, humility, and forgiveness, then it’s a pretty safe bet that he or she on a road to health.