If you or your loved one is struggling with overcoming addiction, no one needs to tell you that it’s tough – you’re living it. An encouraging word of hope and change can often go a long way to help the healing process – even in the darkest times. With that in mind, Vertava Health often brings to light important and newsworthy topics as they relate to drug and alcohol addiction. Our focus in the month of January continues with part three of a four-part series with an esteemed author and colleague,Dr. Jason Brooks, who will explore the aspects of freedom from addiction.
Freedom from the Fear of Change
“I have a dream…”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
These iconic and resounding words from the great American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr., were delivered on August 28, 1963. During the March in Washington, this speech was heard by over 250,000 civil rights supporters and was a milestone moment in the journey to end racism in the United States. Today, January 19, as we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember the incredible impact he had to bringing transformation, change, and freedom for many. But, we also remember that “change” is never easy and fear of change often holds us back from taking the next steps to freedom.
As I speak around the country on the topic of hope, healing, change, growth, and success, one question that I typically ask my audiences is…”Who likes change?”. We have been socialized to answer this question with a resounding “Yes, I love change. Change is great! Change is awesome! I live for change!”. To which I immediately, and to the shock of most, say “You’re a liar.”
We know that change happens…it’s part of life. But, the reality is, change is a challenge.
- Change is not easy. and because of that fact, if we are really, really honest with ourselves, the vast majority of us don’t really like change. Even the laws of physics support the natural state where objects at rest tend to stay at rest. For change to occur, it requires a force for movement.
- Change is messy. It often puts us in the position where we fall down and then have to get back up and try again.
- Change costs us something. You will have to give up something to change. Maybe it’s a job, a relationship, money, time, twinkies, security…and the list goes on and on. Whatever it is, to change will require you to give up something that brings you comfort for something else.
- Change is uncertain. You don’t know what change will bring. We can do everything possible to anticipate, plan, and prepare. But, in the end, when you commit to change, there’s no guarantee that the results you expect will be the results you receive.
In my work as a consulting psychologist, I often connect with individuals who feel stuck in areas of life. Some feel stuck in unfulfilled jobs. Others feel stuck in a cycle of financial strife. Still others may feel stuck in unhealthy eating or exercise habits that are leading to physical health challenges. In particular, though, my heart absolutely breaks for those folks, and there are many, who stay stuck in physically or emotionally abusive relationships and those who remain in the prison of alcohol and drug addiction. As I listen to their stories, and their perceived feelings of helplessness to change, I just want to shake them and say…”Are you listening to yourself? Are you truly believing there’s no way to change? Do you really think it’s better to stay where you are…in your abuse or addiction…rather than push forward with a new direction for a better life and create something special for yourself?” The reality is most people would rather stay stuck in pain than commit the physical, emotional, or spiritual energy needed to change and finally break free.
Does this sound like you? Do you feel caught…trapped…uncertain…and paralyzed by the fear of change? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his supporters faced incredible opposition. But, in the midst of that opposition, they found the strength to stand and become a catalyst for transformational change in the United States, with ripple effects around the world. I imagine that every day, Dr. King would get out of bed and think “What am I doing? Can I really make a change? How can I change myself? How can I possibly change a country?”. It didn’t happen overnight…and we know we’re still not there. But, all that’s required is a first step.
So, what can you today to begin to break free from the fear of change.
First, create a vision for the change you want to see. You must have a vivid, clear, in living color picture in your mind of the ideal change you want to create. Maybe you want to finally break free from the chains of your illegal drug addiction, your Xanax abuse, or your Oxycodone addiction. See yourself clean and sober. See yourself happy and healthy. See yourself reconciled in your relationships. See yourself fulfilled in your job. Create the vision.
Second, list the steps and take action to bring your vision to reality. Not only do you need to know where you’re going, but also the steps to get there. I love the analogy of the GPS. You need turn-by-turn directional plans in your life to make the change. And when something doesn’t happen the way you thought…”recalculate and move on”.
Third, celebrate your successes. As you change and move closer and closer to your dreams, celebrate the successes you’ve made and the person you’re becoming. This isn’t always easy…but taking time to focus on the blessings in our life can make all the difference in how you approach each day. Several years ago I started keeping a “Gratitude Journal”. Every night before I go to sleep I make a list of 3-4 things I’m thankful for from the day. It’s doesn’t have to be earth shattering. Sometimes I’m just thankful for the chance to cuddle with my little girl when I tuck her in bed at night…or the chance I have to take my teenage son out for coffee and talk about “girls”…or date night with my bride. But I end every day thinking on the things I’m grateful for and envisioning the life I want to create. How about you? Just imagine what it would be like, every night before you go to sleep, to give thanks for the chains of addiction in your life that you have been broken…the freedom found from drugs and alcohol. Imagine what it would be like to celebrate restored relationships, healed families, and finally, because I’ve changed for ever, saying with confidence and conviction…”Free at last, free at last…Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”
Dr. King said, “I have a dream.” What’s your dream? A dream without action is just a dream. A dream with action and the motivation to change creates a legacy. What will be your life legacy?