Motivations as the First Step (Part 2)

by: Bob Garon
Manila Times | February 16, 2000

The greatest challenge facing the addiction therapist is to motivate the addict to want to change. The addict may be a victim, but he is a willing victim. He like his dope and when he enters rehab, it isn’t because he truly wants to change, even if he says he does. Rarely does a man come into treatment of his own accord. There is almost always a measure of pressure coming from the family or the courts.

Motivation is absolutely necessary if he is to get well. It is something he does not have when he enters our Nazareth House at our ranch in San Jose, Batangas. We see it all the time in the newcomers. They are quick to blame their drug taking on external factors (parents, family problems, pressures of every kind, etc.). But they do not perceive, acknowledge and fully accept their own contributions to their drug-related life problems. Instead, they blame external circumstances beyond their control.

Slowly, as the program takes root, the addict begins to accept that his drug use is what is causing him all sorts of problems that are making his life miserable. He now begins to express the desire to change not because of external pressures but because of an inner motivation.

He begins to see his potential for change. He sees members of my staff who are ex-addicts and who after years of addiction, have put their lives together and found happiness in their new drug-free lifestyles. As he attends daily seminars and workshops, and is helped in reflecting on the realities of his drug use, he begins to admit that he is responsible for his problems. As soon as and only when he stops blaming the world and accepts his personal role in his addiction, he is ready for change.

Even so, he may still reject the demands of life in our rehab center. He might think the he can get well if only he goes abroad or changes job, goes back to school or chooses some other option that calls for less effort.

It is only when, finally, he has rejected all other options for change except treatment that he begins to move forward and makes real progress. He now fully accepts his drug use and related problems as truly destructive to himself and to others. He also accepts that other attempts at change do not work.

A proof of his acceptance is that he recognizes the need to change himself. He needs to understand that he is the problem and not just the chemicals he has fallen in love with. He says that he is willing to do whatever he must in order to change. He says he is ready to give up his comforts and his drug-related lifestyle to get help.

Though he has been without drugs since entering Nazareth House, he still has his cravings for his drugs. Shabu addicts talk about salivating like you and I do when the thought of a favourite food comes to mind. Remember the admission into rehab is a shock for the addict, whose drug use is abruptly stopped.

It also marks a sudden and radical change in lifestyle (loss of freedom, a strict regimen, absence of old friends, etc.). Not easy but necessary if a man is to get well.

It should come as no surprise if he experiences mood swings as he lives his new lifestyle without drugs. There are moments of happiness and times of depression. There’s hope and there’s despair. One moment, he believes he will recover. Then there are doubts that the program can work for him. There are times of craving and periods of indifference.

It’s all part of the ups and downs of adjusting to a new life. It is a time for learning abstinence, for learning to function and find happiness without having to use drugs. It is a difficult, but necessary time in life of a recovering addict.

More tomorrow.