I talked previously about how unaddressed trauma in our lives can lead to addiction and other unhealthy coping mechanisms. This time I’d like to talk about what how to begin the lifelong process of healing from those traumas. For this topic, I’m going to offer an introduction into the first three components of the Stages of Change model, because through the process of change we can explore, understand, and find our way toward healing the traumas that hold us back.
In the Transtheoretical (Stages of Change) Model, the first stage -Pre-Contemplation – could be most easily recognized as the stage of denial because we don’t believe we have a problem. “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing. I can quit anytime.”
It is in the second stage – Contemplation – that we know we have a problem, but we aren’t ready to do anything about it. In my experience, it is in this second stage that healing begins, because we can’t heal until we accept that we have something to heal from. The start of recovery is not necessarily an all or nothing deal. You don’t have to be ready to give up substances completely in this moment, you just have to acknowledge the need for something to change.
It is when we are in Contemplation that possibilities begin to exist, but there’s an important thing to know in this moment about the Stages of Change – they can be a lot like musical chairs. Someone in Contemplation today might go right back to the comfort and safety of Pre-Contemplation tomorrow. This can be one of the more frustrating aspects of addiction, but it’s not exclusive to people who use drugs either.
We all have trauma and we all have something to recover from. If we start there, from the understanding that everyone has a need for recovery from something, it can ease the transition from one stage to the next, and it makes it easier to get to stage three, Preparation. I like to think of Preparation as the stage of possibilities, because it is here that we are willing to talk and explore what could be. Think of it as a brainstorming session where no idea is a bad idea because you aren’t making decisions, you’re just thinking about what is possible.
These first three stages can be misleading. There is a safety net here because you’re only thinking and talking about change, but it is also in these stages where the most fundamental shifts take place. When we transition between these first three stages, we go from denial to discussion, and it is here that anything is possible.
I’ll bring the rest of the stages into the discussion in REAL TALK ABOUT ADDICTION: Change Happens, but I’d like to add one final note on this installment. We change when we are ready to change, not when someone else wants us to. While this can be upsetting for others, it is not our responsibility to change for others. That means the judge can’t change us, our parents or children can’t change us, our partners can’t change us. Each and every person on this planet has as unique story and we all move at our own pace.