The first step in recovery is admitting that you have a problem, the second step is having the willingness to accept or get help. For many people, recognising that they are engaging in bad habits is not difficult, but finding the motivation to address their addiction and admit that what they have been doing is harmful to themselves and others can be tough. This is especially true for functioning addicts, who, even if they think they have a problem, don’t find it serious enough to seek treatment. So what exactly motivates an addicted person to recover and remain motivated?
Failing to plan is planning to fail
How Do People Get Motivated To Recover Initially?
Addiction is a lifelong illness, so in recovery, there are two parts to motivation, one to enter recovery and two to remain in recovery. Having the right motivation is a vital asset that is required in overcoming an addiction or any type, not just those with a substance addiction.
In order for motivation to be real, you must find the benefits of recovery to outweigh the costs. On top of that, you need to genuinely believe in it and want it.
One of the most powerful vehicles for getting into recovery is intrinsic motivation. This means that you are motivated to do something for yourself and yourself alone. For example, you want to quit alcohol because your liver is showing signs of damage from drinking and you want to improve your health for your own sake to live a happier, healthier life.
Studies show that people with intrinsic motivation are more likely to overcome their addiction because it is stronger and longer lasting. People who are threatened or forced into treatment are more often than not, destined to fail or to maintain their recovery if they do get into recovery initially.
For some people, having an external factor on top of having intrinsic motivation is necessary for achieve abstinence and to stay in recovery. This can be anything that matters to you, such as a significant other, children, career or even self-image. Whatever it is, as long as it is a positive motivational factor for you, it is a valid motivator.
If you find a role model or someone you don’t want to disappoint, this can be a great motivational factor too. For example, if you are a dad, you may want to be a better person for your kids and overall family.
Losing The Things That Matter
Some people don’t take their addiction seriously until they are confronted by the thought of losing something or someone they care about. A spouse may ask for a divorce, a boss may hint at being fired or a criminal prosecution and a prison sentence looming if you do not get help for your addiction. While threats and ultimatums can lead to a less successful recovery, for some people it is a wake up call and at the very least, see that their behaviour is upsetting others and will not be tolerated for much longer.
If you are a family or friend of an addict and considering issuing an ultimatum, try to avoid threats, especially as they may backfire and actually make the situation worse, pushing the individual away from recovery instead of towards it. Feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment and blame rarely motivate an addicted person to recover. Instead, try to convince them that they should seek treatment and help on their own terms. Instead of “I’m filing for a divorce unless you stop drinking”, explain the potential consequences. Try, “Your drinking is impacting my well-being and our children’s development. Will you consider getting help with the families love and support?”
Seeking & Utilising Support
Many people with a substance addiction have low self-esteem or are not happy with some aspect of their lives and are trying to self-soothe with the use of substances, not actually realising that it is actually making their situation worse. If you feel dissatisfied with your life, an unexpected show of support may be just what you needed to seek treatment. You may be surprised that your family, friend or colleague want you to get better for your own sake but you should be open to accepting the help and support when it’s offered. A supportive environment can be one of the strongest foundations for long-lasting recovery.
The Promise Of A New Future
In certain situations, you might be motivated to get clean or sober by an unexpected life event. A sudden change that can potentially transform your life for the better can be inspiring. For example, you may have a child on the way or you may have been accepted into your dream university or job.
The opposite is true as well. You may be confronted with a wake up call due to your addiction. For example, you may have suffered an overdose, liver damage, blood clot, infection, loss of a limb or had a run-in with the police, or lost a lot of money wracking up a drug debt.
A Tragic Event
Wake up calls can also happen on a larger scale. Perhaps one of your parents just passed away, which makes you rethink your life and what you do with it. Maybe you were diagnosed with lung cancer after smoking for decades. Maybe your actions impacted on someone around you. You may decide to change after one event that brings you clarity about your addiction.
Hitting Rock Bottom
Tragedies can help people realise that they are in trouble or the guilt, shame or embarrassment from it can motivate people to change. However, this is not always the case. In some situations, the stress or guilt is only temporary and before they know it, are back to their old habits.
Rock bottom refers to a situation where you realise that you cannot go any lower or carry on doing what you have been doing previously and there is no doubt that something needs to change. The definition of rock bottom is different for each person – for example, you may overdose once and want to change. For others, even if they overdose, after a few days to recover, they can just start using again. Ultimately, rock bottom is when you realise that you are at a dead end and have absolutely no other choice except to get clean or sober.
Why Do People Get Demotivated?
Just as there are many reasons that motivate an addicted person to recover, you must also consider the other side. Sometimes constantly relapsing multiple times can make them feel that they are a failure so give up trying to get into recovery. Often the physical and mental deterioration can be enough to make people feel like a failure and rejection help and support from others.
Having unrealistically high expectations about treatment and recovery can lead to a near-immediate loss of motivation in recovery. You may think that you just need to detox and then you are done and can get on with life as if nothing happened, but a detox it is just the first step. Or you might find that treatment is more challenging than you thought and taking longer than expected. If this is the case, you may be tempted to give up. Setting SMART goals can help to avoid this from happening.
Anger And Emotions
Going through therapy or treatment can cause past problems or feelings to resurface and force you to deal with underlying issues, which isn’t easy for anyone but if you want to have a long-lasting recovery then this must be done to ensure that the reasons you started using substances before don’t cause you to return to them and relapse at a later date. This may cause you to get angry or upset with yourself or with others around you. Powerful emotions can trigger you to give up and return to your addiction. However it is vital that you deal with ALL of your previous issues whilst you are going through the treatment and therapy process to ensure that you don’t relapse at a later date because something is still bothering you that you didn’t deal with before.
Failing to plan is planning to fail
If you are not adequately prepared for living a clean and/or sober life after treatment and therapy, you can easily fall back into bad habits. This is why continuing ongoing support is so important. Most good rehabs or drug and alcohol services will provide this as part of your treatment and therapy. Before you complete treatment and return back to your “normal” life, you must be prepared for stressful or upsetting situations and know what to do when this happens and have a good solid relapse prevention plan in place for this reason.
For example, what if you go to a party where others will be drinking alcohol? What if you get into a confrontation with your family or friend? You must have adequate coping skills before you complete a treatment programme. Creating a daily schedule and recovery plan will also help you to overcome problems when they occur.
Many people associate a lapse or relapse with failure. This is not true! An emotional or mental lapse/relapse is quite common and commonly happens when you romanticise your past use and forget all the negatives that came along with it. A physical lapse can happen as well, making you question why you ever tried to get better in the first place. This is why having your motivational reason for quitting clearly imprinted in your mind.
A lapse or relapse is a fact of addiction. All the good reasons that motivate an addicted person to recover may not be enough. But don’t fear, a lapse or relapse is a part of getting better and can actually strengthen your long-term recovery. It can even be motivating for some, inspiring them to try harder next time now they know what not to do next time. You can find out more information about lapses, relapses & triggers in our other article here.
Tips To Motivate An Addicted Person To Recover
It can be challenging to find and keep motivated during recovery but it is crucial in the long run. Here are some tips to help yourself or someone else you love find motivation to seek treatment:
- List The Pros and Cons
Remember, a key motivating factor is that the costs must outweigh the benefits. Therefore, take the time to make a list of all the pros and cons of maintaining the addiction and keep the list of benefits nearby so that when times get tough, you can see the reasons why you are quitting and are getting into recovery and what benefits you will gain by getting into recovery.
- Meet Other People In The Same Position As You
Go to a group meeting or fellowship meeting, read, watch or listen to stories about addiction and recovery or look up inspiring quotes or photos that can inspire you when things get tough. This can be pictures of your children, a dream car you want to get when you stop or something you have always wanted to do but haven’t been able to because of your addiction.
Group meetings can serve as a warning for those who have not hit rock bottom or are new to recovery by gaining new friends, knowledge and experience when others can help to identity triggers or warning signs that you cannot see yourself. You will also get phone numbers of other addicts who have been in recovery for some time that you can talk to when times get tough and can serve as a reminder for those in recovery to never go back.
- Ask For Help & Support When You Need It
Help and support can be a major motivating factor for people. If you need help or support, your friends, family or colleagues will likely help you find the strength you need to get better. Having the right support will also help you believe in yourself and strengthen your recovery.
- Imagine A Better Future
Create goals or creating a bucket list and think of what your life will be like once you quit and get into recovery. Perhaps you’ll stop spending money on drugs and use it to travel the world instead. Create both short and long-term goals so you don’t get overwhelmed. For example, have both big and small goals that you can achieve straight away without needing money and bigger goals that will require you saving up some money for so that you can do whatever it is you want or buy whatever it is you want to buy. For example, you could plan to redecorate your house with the tools and supplies you already have. Your bigger goal could be to visit family or friends who live in America for example. Whatever is motivating to you is acceptable.
5. Set Simple Goals
setting clear and simple goals and targets will allow you to reach your goals whilst making them manageable, possible and achievable! You can find out more information about setting SMART goals here in our other article.
Finding Motivation After Treatment
Motivation is just as important for those who have completed treatment and are currently in recovery. To maintain a positive outlook, remember to celebrate the small achievements and don’t forget why you’re here where you are and why you don’t want to go backwards which caused you so much trouble, stress and disruption in the first place.
Recovery is a life-long journey and will take time, effort and perseverance. That is why little successes need to be celebrated just as much as the bigger ones. Acknowledge each day you’ve been sober or clean and make sure you are reminded of it every day as you should be proud of your achievements and effort to get where you are currently. Over time, you’ll see how far you’ve come and that will motivate be another motivating factor you to keep going as you will not want to throw away all that time and effort you have put into being abstinent clean or sober.
Always remind yourself what motivated you to get into treatment and recovery in the first place. Remember your dreams, your failures, your fears and keep inspiring items out as a constant reminder. If you have a role model or person you don’t want to disappoint, keep a photo of them close by. If your motivation is to see the world, sign up for travel newsletters or start planning a holiday once you reach your goals.
Most importantly, no matter what got you into treatment and recovery in the first place, find a reason to do it for your own well-being. At the end of the day, no one impacts your life more than you do yourself.
Reward Yourself For Achieving Your Goals Or Achievements
It is important to reward yourself for achieving your goals and achievements. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. It could simply be going outside for a picnic with a friend or loved one or going to see a film at a cinema. Whatever interests you can be turned into a reward for you. This will also make you want to achieve your goals and achievements more quickly and carry on achieving your goals as you go throughout your life-long recovery journey so that you are motivated to get your rewards.
Motivation is a crucial component to recovery because it defines the reasons why we act or behave in a particular way. Often in early recovery, motivation levels are high and there are plans and ideas in place to remain clean or sober. However, as time passes, our motivation to remain clean or sober can begin to decrease for various reasons. Perhaps life has become stressful, work is overwhelming or life doesn’t seem as fun being clean or sober. Whatever the reason, when recovery fatigue strikes, relapse can become a true, valid concern. So what are some ways to ensure you’re staying motivated in recovery? These tips can help:
– Connect With The Recovery Community
In today’s world there are more and more opportunities to connect and interact with recovery communities. Of course, there are the traditional AA, NA, CA ect meetings, but there are also several other options. Many online social media communities allow you to connect and interact with other recovering addicts from all over the world. Additionally, there are online meetings and interactive chat sessions one can participate in to stay connected. And staying connected is a sure-fire way of staying motivated as you set out on a lifelong recovery journey. Both online or physical group meetings are free to attend, removing any financial concerns. Contact information for the various fellowship meetings can be found on our help and support page.
– Set Achievable Goals
A great way to stay motivated is to set both short-term and long-term goals. Setting goals and having “checkpoints” can keep you on track and give you rewarding feelings of accomplishment and progress toward a goal. Make sure goals are achievable by using the SMART goal planning tool.
– Create A Gratitude List
Recovery is not a smooth journey, there will be both good times and difficult times, unfortunately that’s life. However, being able to find something to be grateful for, in both the good and the difficult times, can keep you on the right path to recovery. Get in the habit of making daily lists, and remember, there is always something to be grateful for in recovery! Try just writing down 5 things each day while you get the hang of doing it. Examples can include:
- Your parents – for giving birth to you. Because if there is no them, there will not be you.
- Your family – for being your closest kin in the world.
- Your friends – for being your companions in life.
- Your hands – so you can type on your computer, flip the pages of books, and hold the hands of your loved ones.
- Your legs – for letting you walk, run, swim, play the sports you love, and curl up in the comfort of your seat.
- Your mind – for the ability to think, to store memories, and to create new solutions.
- Your good health – for enabling you to do what you want to do and for what you’re about to do in the future.
- Internet – for connecting you and others despite the physical space between you.
- Transport – for making it easier to commute from one place to another.
- Mobile phones – for making it easy to stay in touch with others.
- Animals – for adding to the diversity of life.
- Hobbies and activities that bring you joy?
- What is something you’ve learned this week that you’re thankful for?
- Things you like about yourself
- What is one new thing you would like to learn today
The list is endless and only limited by your imagination. However try to keep the things on your gratitude list positive and not negative. Examples can be found online if you get stuck and need ideas.
– Keep A Daily Recovery Journal, Diary, Blog or Vlog (Video Blog)
As time passes, it can be easy to forget our struggles and the reasons we had for wanting to get clean or sober in the beginning. We might become complacent if we feel we haven’t made progress. By keeping a journal, diary, blog, or video-blog, you can more easily see and track the progress and growth of your journey which will make staying motivated an easier task. You might even have a desire to share your writings or videos with others who are struggling and who may be in a similar situation to you. As time goes by and you gain experience and clean/sober time, passing on your knowledge and experience to others who are new to recovery vital, just as it was for you when you initially got into recovery.
– Create & Maintain structure
Chaos and disorganisation can be stressful and overwhelming. By having a structured schedule of healthy and positive activities from day to day, you can create a sense of order in your life. This is also a great way to improve your goal-setting and goal-reaching work. To find out how to create one (if you don’t already) you can find our link to our article on creating and implementing a daily schedule and recovery plan here.
– Working A 12-Step Program
Working a 12 step program with a sponsor can help guide you and keep you motivated to continue your progress in your journey of recovery. These programs provide a reliable resource for accountability, fellowship, knowledge, experience and spirituality (although you don’t have to be religious or believe in god to get involved in a 12 step program). Contact information for the various fellowship style programs can be found on our help & support page here.
– Service Work
A well-known quote in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is, “To keep it, you must give it away.” Helping others who are struggling with a substance addiction can give people hope and strength to continue with their own recovery. It allows people to recognise where they are and how far they have come in their journey. Service work can look different for everyone and can take many forms. It could be as little as offering someone a ride to a meeting, setting up chairs and making coffee at a meeting or it could be as much as becoming a sponsor for someone else, acting as a guest speaker at a local event or even setting up and running your own fellowship meetings.
– Practising Self-Care
If you can, try and make sure you take at least 20 to 30 minutes a day to do something you enjoy for yourself or to take care of yourself. It is easy to get caught up in the busy routines of life: work, relationships, meetings, obligations—the list goes on. If we don’t balance our lives and do things we enjoy, we might become overwhelmed and stressed. Take the time to read, journal, meditate, pray, exercise, practice a hobby or listen to music.
In our active drug or alcohol use, we often neglect simple things such as personal hygiene or personal commitments as we prioritise our seeking and using drugs or alcohol before everything else. Initially you could use this time to just clean your teeth, have a wash/shower and change your clothes. Start small and work upwards. Set a specific time to do this and do it at the same time each day without exception.
– Connect Spiritually To A Higher Power Or Religion
One can find meaning in spirituality through organised religions such as AA, NA, CA groups, nature, music, groups of people or an understanding of a higher power. Spirituality can change, evolve, and grow over time. Feeling connected to something bigger than yourself can help keep you motivated and accountable to continue your recovery journey. It doesn’t mean that you have to believe in a god. It could be mother nature, guardian angels or any other personal interpretation of a higher power.
– Maintain Healthy Sleep, Nutrition And Exercise Habits
Addiction can wreak havoc on our bodies. Implementing and sticking to healthy habits can help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and decrease bad moods. It can also help to reduce withdrawal symptoms if you are detoxing and help minimise the time the withdrawal period would usually last. Getting enough sleep, exercise, water and fuelling our bodies with healthy foods can help us feel good both physically and mentally.
Tools For Motivation In Recovery
- Cost-Benefit Analysis – This simple exercise can help you assess everything that you lost and gained while active in addiction. Take a sheet of paper and draw a line straight down the middle, creating two columns. In the left hand column, write down the benefits or gains of addiction. In the right hand column, write down everything lost as a result of addiction. What did it cost you financially, emotionally and socially? What did you gain while using?Once you’ve written down all the pros and cons, it’s pretty easy to see the “benefits” of using drugs at e short-term, while the “costs” are long-term. Carry this sheet of paper with you during early recovery and, once faced with temptation, it can serve as a great reality check. Remembering the pain and suffering of active addiction can be a great motivator to change.
- Reward Yourself – Recovery is a process, not an event. You’ll need to come up with ways to get – and stay – motivated in the long-term. A good way to do this is to treat yourself every now and then. Whether it’s getting a massage or splurging on something sweet, rewards keep you motivated in achieving goals.
Remember: Motivation is a personal thing; the motivators that work for you might not work for someone else. Find what works for you and stick with it.
Remember to believe in yourself, you can do this and succeed!
Seek Help If You Are Struggling
Recovery is a journey and not a destination. That means there will be bumps along the way. It’s about progress, not perfection. Everyone struggles during their journey and being honest about our struggles allows us to reach out to those who are supportive and willing to help. Build a support system and use it too! The people you reach out to might be able to help re-spark your motivation, but they’ll never be able to help if you don’t speak up when you’re in need. We have all been in the same position as you are now and most will be willing to help you any way they can but remember, people aren’t psychic so if you don’t ask for help, people won’t be able to help you! You can find contact information for your nearest drug and alcohol service as well as other helpful organisations on our help and support page here.