You should take a logical approach to building a new life once you begin recovery. What will your life look like after you get treatment for opiate addiction? If you’re like most people, you simply cannot imagine living differently, without the drugs that stimulate your brain’s pleasure and reward center. You cannot imagine a life lived without the people who are in your life right now.
But you can make it to a new life. William Arthur Ward, an inspirational writer who died in 1994, was famous for this quote: “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” So just where do you imagine yourself, and what do you dream about?
Can You Dream?
But for people who are in treatment for opiate addiction, things aren’t so cut and dried. Believing in dreams isn’t easy. Many people begin treatment only when they face some kind of ultimatum. For some, it is rehab or divorce. For others, their boss has sent them into treatment for opiate addiction because they failed a random drug screen. Many people only make it into treatment because they are court-ordered.
Imagining Change After Treatment for Opiate Addiction
Everybody starts out in treatment for opiate addiction with a pre-contemplative state of mind. That means that they can’t even imagine what their life would be like if they stopped using drugs. They are in a state of denial that the problems in their life are caused by drug abuse. They have no understanding of the effects that drugs have on the body and they have no interest in learning. If that’s the case, then your counselor might ask you to give some serious thought to this question: What would your ideal life look like?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Where would you like to live?
- Do you have a significant other, and if not, do you want one? If you have one, is there a real and positive connection between the two of you?
- If you’re a parent, ask yourself what kind of parent you are. Can your children approach you with questions? Do you set a good example?
- If you could pursue any hobby in the world, which one would you choose?
- Imagine that you are in the newspaper for a proud achievement. What is it?
- If there were no barrier caused by money or education, what kind of work would you do?
- What would other people think of you?
You might be surprised to learn that most of these questions are part of the process used when people develop a personal development plan. They sit at a comfortable place and write down their goals, and then they write down the steps for achieving them. For example, if someone wants to earn a degree in cosmetology, that person might think about whether they have the financial support to go to school without holding down a job. Then they have to consider, if they have children, who will provide childcare while they go to school. They have to think about the transportation they will need in order to get to the school each and every day.
Analyze Your Goals–Honestly
To get your plan started, write down your goals. Nobody will see them but you. Then draw three columns at the top of your paper. One is to indicate that working on treatment for opiate addiction will help you meet a goal. The next column is where you mark if being sober will interfere with a goal. In the third column, put a mark if sobriety makes no difference either way.
What do you think it means if you persist in using drugs even if they are going to get in the way of your new life? What would you think of someone else who kept doing harmful things—like a heart attack patient who keeps smoking?
Do the people around you think you have a problem, even if you don’t think you do? How do you explain the discrepancy? Which of you is right?
You should also ask yourself at the end of every day: What things went wrong that day? What could you have done to make them turn out differently? And don’t forget this important question: What things went right that day?
Pre-Contemplation vs. Contemplation
Above, you read that everybody begins treatment for opiate addiction with a pre-contemplative mindset. Dr. Mark Gold wrote an excellent piece on the stages of change based on concepts proposed by two alcoholism researchers. Precontemplation includes these four sub-stages:
- Reluctance is the stage when the person has no knowledge or idea that their life can really improve through treatment for opiate addiction. They do not yet truly understand their problems.
- Rebellion takes place when the person’s life revolves around his drug use and he truly does not want anybody to interfere with that comfort zone.
- Resignation means the person begins making half-hearted attempts to stop using drugs, but they are really overwhelmed by their problems and by the idea of treatment.
- Rationalizing occurs when they come up with a zillion things other than substance abuse that cause their problems. These are the people who say that other people might have a problem, but not them.
When someone actually begins to see that putting their heart into treatment for opiate addiction might actually bring about some rewards, they have reached the Contemplation stage. They are beginning to think about the pros and cons of continued drug use versus going into recovery. They begin imagining what their life would be like without drugs.
There Is No Right or Wrong Answer
What about when you’re asking yourself those tough questions? You don’t have to come up with some pat answer just to satisfy your counselor. England’s Benjamin Disraeli who served twice as the prime minister was once asked by Queen Victoria what religion he followed. “Madam,” he told her, “I am the blank page between the Old Testament and the New.”
That is where you are right now. So wake up and close your eyes, because it’s time to dream.
You might be surprised to learn that your counselor at the methadone treatment center can offer all kinds of resources that will help you put your new personal development plan into action. Because if you can imagine it, you can achieve it.