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Changing Alcoholic Behaviors For Good

Success at modifying or eliminating a behavior is best approached by studying those who have managed it on their own and emulating their accomplishments.

That was the reasoning of researchers James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente who did just that, not with alcoholism specifically, but with all types of change.

Stages of Change

The result of their work was the mapping of the change process through a series of steps: Pre-contemplation (denial); Contemplation (thinking about it); Preparation (researching and planning); Action (making the change); Maintenance (developing the supportive activities); and Termination (when the behavior is no longer a concern).

The steps remain the same, regardless of the behavior to be modified or eliminated, whether it's weight loss, smoking cessation, physical conditioning, financial improvement, vocational redirection, or escaping alcohol abuse.

Simply recognizing the process, however, does not accomplish the desired end.

Everyone denies certain behaviors that are obvious to others; most of us camp out in "Contemplation" and "Preparation" for years before actually doing anything, if we ever do.

Even "Action" is no guarantee that we won't revert to the comfort of familiar old behaviors  when change becomes uncomfortable.

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Soon enough most of us find ourselves longing for the "security of familiar miseries."

Yet once the change process is started it is also hard to forget.

Those who quit smoking and then resume the habit are never quite able to forget the freedom from cigarettes and eventually they usually quit again.

So too with ex-drinkers and others who have experienced the satisfaction of overcoming a very tough condition.

12 Step is not the only path

In planning your own change strategy be careful to consider all possible avenues to success.

Many alcohol treatment programs are based on only one model - AA/12 Step - which does not support permanent change but leaves people stuck in the "Maintenance" stage of permanent "Recovery."

While this is, if successful, certainly an improvement, it isn't the only, or most desirable, possibility. Allow yourself to think about having a life that isn't focused on alcohol at not, neither consuming it nor talking about consuming it.

Think about becoming an ex-drinker in the same sense as those most hardcore of all addicts, smokers, think of themselves, ex-smokers.

Give yourself the same edge they have, knowing that, having defeated nicotine, they can change anything.

Yes, it is possible to move through "Maintenance" to "Termination," for those addicted to alcohol, too.

Decide what end you wish to achieve, plan the steps, seek good help if you need to, and quietly construct a different life.

It is possible, desirable, exciting, and rewarding. Don't sell yourself short.