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Sat, Aug. 11th, 2012, 11:54 am
Changing Toward Sober, Done in Musical Steps

Below are the steps of change we travel on the path to sobriety, embodied in a series of songs.

First Step: Precontemplation



In the precontemplation stage, you don't want to change or don't believe that you have a problem.

For me, I guess, much of the original difficulty started with not feeling worthy as a child. I didn't feel like I should fight to protect myself and I didn't know how to address bad situations other than blaming myself because everyone else had the habit of blaming me.


(Sarah McLaughlin -- Good Enough)

Later on, ill-prepared for the big world, I just didn't fit in anywhere. A combination of neurological thought-process issues and complete lack of life-skills meant I couldn't connect to people. When I did attempt to stumble forth, whatever I was attached to got ripped away from me by some horrible circumstance until I no longer could put my faith in anything or anyone.


(Dido -- Life for Rent)

Second Step: Contemplation



Here, you are wondering if maybe you have a problem.

I never really had this stage. Something was terribly wrong before I ever ventured into drug abuse or alcohol and I knew it. I just didn't want to deal with it; I'd been hurt and I was alone and I didn't want to care. I didn't want to live. So my world filled up with distractions as I tried to sink myself further into non-existence, until finally, over a period of time, I just got tired. There was never a 'bottoming out' moment for me, but a place where standing still instead of moving forward was the only option left. The energy to keep throwing sand into my own eyes just wasn't there; I would have to face what my life had become.


(Pink -- Sober)

Step Three: Preparation



You aren't ready to make the change yet, but you are learning more and getting yourself mentally ready for a life change. This is the step that people most often try to skip, and one of the ways that people on the road to recovery can trip themselves up. You have to prepare, you have to have a plan before you jump into action, otherwise it's just pure luck if you succeed.

Despite my need for structure, and my obsessive compulsion to plan out even the most minor of events in my life, I thought I could just get better by willing it so. Boy, was I proved wrong. Then I stalled. Obviously, my will wasn't 'strong enough' and somehow I felt that made me a weak person. How was I to know it wasn't about willpower? Furthermore, no one had ever taught me how to be happy, how to love sanely, or how to believe in myself. The initial people in my adult life just fed into the chaos; it wasn't until newer, more stable people appeared that I first understood what normality felt like.


(Rosi Golan ft. William Fitzsimmons -- Hazy)

The Part We See: Action



This phase is what people think of when we talk about changing, but it is only one part of an integral whole.

I stepped into a brand new concept of being, one I'd been prepping for my whole existence.


(Bright Eyes -- First Day of My Life)

It's not easy to know how to be when you've never been taught any life skills. I was in the wild, struggling through a sea of people who expected me to know things I didn't, who expected me to act in ways I couldn't. All the while, the comforting abyss of nothing called me back.


(Beth Hart -- Learning to Live)

It was so hard, and like many people I recycled back many times (what some call relapse) and it's possible I may recycle many more times. This is another place where people give up, because there is a general belief that one slip puts you back to square one. That isn't true. Change is a spiral that cycles ever around; what looks like the beginning is really a loop above as you walk up into the light. In fact, you can learn from every relapse and use what you learn to strengthen your recovery process.


(Lissie -- Here Before)

Once you've recycled a few times, the venture back into sanity feels less like a joyous jump and more like a realistic plodding down a muddy road. But that's okay. Now you are better prepared with all the knowledge from your myriad experiences. It's going to be harder for life to trip you up.

By this point, no one really believed I would ever get better, least of all myself. I just didn't think I had it in me. Getting wasted, though, no longer helped any of my problems; it didn't even hide them temporarily. I had nothing to gain and everything to lose going down that path. Mostly I still wanted to lose. I still wanted to die because so far life hadn't been strewn with rose petals. In fact, it had pretty much been all thorns.

Then I realized life would always suck unless I gave it a chance. This didn't mean that positive thinking would necessarily net good results. I could give life a chance and it might still suck and the effort would be wasted. But if I maintained my desire to die, it would definitely be awful, with no prospect of anything different. I had a choice: stay suicidal and nothing worthwhile could possibly come my way, or try to learn to be happy and work at happiness, in which case there was a chance (but not a guarantee) that life might actually be worth living.

Here is where faith comes in.

Not a faith in God, or that some higher power was going to save me, but a simple faith that things could change. For every person on the road to recovery, something inside has to shift spiritually. For me it was the belief that a happy life could apply to me and not just to other people. There would be no guarantee that just because I flipped everything around I would attain happiness, or contentment, or even a small measure of peace. It was only the chance.


(Matthew and the Atlas -- Within the Rose)

Step Five: Maintenance



Maintenance is where many people end their journey; it is what we are referring to when we stand under the banner of recovering addicts/alcoholics. You'll still have to fight sometimes to keep going in the right direction, but the bulk of pressure eases once you develop new coping skills to replace old addictive behaviors.

Faith is trust in the future. I'd put forth my hand and taken a wobbly step forward on my own. And I'd gone in the right direction, toward a support network of people who could help. Without a good support network, it is much harder to succeed.


(Avril Lavigne -- Keep Holding On)

Final Stage: Termination



There is hot debate as to whether or not this stage is possible for most people. Some say addicts never recover, but others say they can and do. What does it mean to reach the termination stage? It means that the addictive substance or behavior no longer holds any interest. You recognize its harmfulness to you and do not have a desire to return to that behavior or lifestyle. Being around that substance or witnessing certain behaviors no longer fills you with cravings.

Maybe one day, I will reach this place. Even the experts that believe this is possible admit that most people don't actually get this far in recovery. Still, it's a worthwhile goal to strive for.


(J. Viewz (feat. Kelli Scarr) -- Oh, Something's Quiet)

And in the meantime, until I get there, I'll keep writing and blogging and reaching out. Nothing is more resilient in the human spirit than the power of hope.


(Natasha Bedingfield -- Unwritten)




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