When it comes to healing from an addiction, there isn’t a right way or a wrong way. While it may seem like a person trying to recover should do or say certain things to indicate that he or she “really wants” recovery, there is no real indication that a person desires change in his or her life. Sometimes, someone struggling with an addiction will say anything just to get people off of his or her back. It’s important to remember that compulsion reduces all of life to objects that can be manipulated in order to resolve the compulsive cycle. This means that someone with an addiction has become practiced in the art of manipulation.
I’ve heard several stories from people saying things like, “My son is ready to enter treatment, is there any way you can help him?”
I’ll respond, “How do you know he’s ready?”
They’ll always say, “Because he told me.”
I’ll then meet with the person “ready to enter treatment” and almost always, he or she isn’t even thinking about giving up his or her substance or behavior of choice. It’s like I’m there as part of their play: I’m providing the backdrop of proof that change is, in fact, imminent. But, it almost always turns out that change is neither imminent nor desired.
The frustrating truth about all treatment is that patient commitment is the key component to treatment success. Diabetes treatment, for example, shares similar relapse rates as substance abuse treatment. Diabetes patients must adhere to, not only a medication regiment, but they make behavioral changes, as well. People, on average, will remain doing the same things the same way and won’t change a behavior easily. Especially if the behavior is ingrained in the way a person’s diet or substance abuse ritual becomes ingrained. Whenever we do any behavior over and over again, that’s when it becomes as much a part of someone’s life as breathing.
So, how do we “know” if someone is truly ready to make as radical a change in his or her life as entering addiction recovery? Well, we don’t. If we look for “signs” of change readiness, we will drive ourselves crazy with frustration. In my role as a treatment provider, I realize that it’s part of my job to educate people in the art of acceptance. Before anyone around us feels “safe,” he or she needs to understand that he or she is loved, in spite of her behaviors. Therefore, I spend a lot of time simply trying to get people to recognize the love they share, even if an addiction has driven a deep wedge between them. It may sound “touchy-feely,” but the plain truth is that when there’s safety and honesty and love, positive change usually follows. External love can influence and inform a person’s sense of self-love, when that sense of self-love awakens in a substance abuser, he or she can then begin to see and recognize the harm the substance and abuse lifestyle has caused. It takes time, patience, and acceptance. There are no other signs to seek…