During my career, I have learned that motivation is the most important factor of change.
I have seen people who have overcome their addictive behavior only with the high motivation. In addition, I have many people who continue their addictive behaviors despite the fact that they enjoy the various opportunities, such as professional consultants, hospitalizations, participation in meetings of famous recovery groups, and support by good families, friends, and community.
Their motivation is low for giving up their addiction, and their motivation for doing addictive behavior is high. Motivation determines whether one overcomes addictive behaviors or continues them. Therefore, motivation management is the key to change. This is because habit change requires not only an increase in motivation to quit addictive behavior, but a decrease in motivation to continue the addictive behavior.
I think the motivation management includes two basic principles:
1. Ability to raise and lower motivation.
2. Ability to increase motivation while changing.
Ability to raise and lower motivation Source of the motivation, is the need. When a need is activated, it creates a motivation for extinguishing itself.
Needs are activated by attention, too. The more people pay attention to stress and anxiety and how to get rid of them, and pay attention to the enjoyment drug use produces, the more they feel are motivated for using. In contrast, whenever people pay attention to the costs and risks of long-term addiction, the motivation of quitting drugs or addictive behaviors will increase.
“Selective attention” is a simple act and strong technique that it is used during the thousands years by religions and ideologies for motivating their followers. Today, SMART Recovery benefits from this method and uses the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) for enhancing motivation to change.
The CBA has four categories of questions:
1. What do I enjoy about my addiction? What does it do for me (be specific)?
2. What do I hate about my addiction? What bad things does it do to me and to others (give specific examples)?
3. What do I think I will like about giving up my addiction?
4. What do I think I will not like about giving up my addiction?
Answering these questions develops awareness and increases the motivation for quitting. The more people do this exercise, the more they will tend to enhance motivation for quitting.
Ability To Increase Motivation While Changing
Overcoming addictive behavior is a process, not an event. Many people know how painful it can be to tread the path toward change. They want to change their addictive behavior immediately, with no discomfort and no urges, without changing their beliefs and values. Such people are like those who enjoy having reached a mountaintop, but hate mountain climbing; or like soccer players who get pleasure only from winning, not from playing.
They start with the high motivation, but they lose their motivation gradually and the most of them do not reach to their goal. Few people that reach to the end of the path. They go through the entire path with anger and complaints. In contrast, those who enjoy the way their motivation increase quickly. And reach the goal with joy and lightly. Rumi believes that loving the path not only increases the motivation for us, but also carries us to the goal. He has beautifully expressed this fact in the story of a thirsty person.
On the bank of the stream there was a high wall,
painful thirsty person was on the top of the wall.
His obstacle for reaching the water was the wall;
He was in distress for the water, like a fish.
Suddenly he threw a brick into the water:
the sound of the water came to his ear like spoken words.
The water was making a sound, that is to say, (it was crying), “Hey,
what is the advantage to you of this throwing a brick at me?”
The thirsty person said, “O water, I have two advantages:
I will never give up from this work.
The first advantage is (my) hearing the sound of the water,
which to thirsty people is music to their ears.
The other advantage is that, (with) every brick I tear off this (wall),
I come (nearer) to running water.
Anyone is more thirsty on the top of the wall,
He will tear off the bricks more quickly.
Anyone is more love with the sound of the water,
He will tear off the bigger brick from the barrier.
I think the main task of people who want to overcome addictive behavior is learning motivation management. Recovery groups, psychologists, physicians, and other people and organizations involved with addiction treatment would do well to establish an environment for helping clients/patients learn this skill.