Addiction isn’t a lack of will power, and recovery isn’t about giving up your power either.
Willpower certainly plays a role in addiction recovery, but willpower without action will result in a failed treatment program. Today’s alcohol and drug detox centers have studied the intricacies of human motivation, and their findings are clear: Action, rather than intention, holds the key to recovery.
First, Let’s Understand a Fallacy of Addiction:
While leading detox treatment centers have come a long way, research-wise, to understand addiction—many detox and treatment centers still promote some of the basic understandings which power recovery.
Contrary to old stereotypes, individuals who become addicted to alcohol or drugs aren’t weak. They’re not immoral, tragically flawed or lacking in willpower more than their sober counterparts. Addiction is a chronic brain disease—and it’s capable of severely hindering a person’s life. Alcohol and drug detox centers, for this reason, take quite a lot of care in rooting out such hard-wired fallacies.
The Surrender Myth
One of these fallacies is the “surrender myth.” Willingness and surrender may seem like opposites, but they’re incredibly similar. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find drug detox programs which don’t attribute one to the other.
One example of this exists in a study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The study examined the concepts of two personality qualities:
- Openness to new experiences
- Concepts of surrender
Reportedly, those who keep their minds “open” to new experiences may lead slightly healthier lives. The freedom of choice, of course, is attractive. More importantly: It assists with intrinsic motivation. In many ways, the ability to choose between options gives one a higher likelihood of long-term drug use cessation.
While alcohol detox treatment centers typically discuss freedom of choice during peer-led meetings, drug detox programs may include a number of exercises and experiences—like adventure therapy—which may nurture this important freedom of choice.
The Pitfalls of Surrender
To dig a little deeper into the ideologies of surrender, choice-based freedom and the types of exercises detox treatment centers undergo to promote the growth of discipline, we should examine the pitfalls of surrender beneath a finer lens.
Again, addiction isn’t caused by lacking willpower. This said, willpower is still a powerful recovery tool. The willingness to get better, become healthier and achieve a new standard of life drives addiction recovery at its core. Unsurprisingly, drug and alcohol detox centers assert this on every level.
Nobody chooses to be addicted. As a person becomes increasingly reliant on a substance, however, they may find themselves taking numerous gambles to satiate their many compulsions. The pitfalls of surrender exist when the choice is forgone—and when absolute freedom is prioritized over a new, healthy lifestyle.
Rectifying Surrender and Choice
So, is it possible to both “surrender” and to “choose?” It is. There’s a reason many drug and alcohol detox centers focus on these two aspects, in tandem, when helping patients achieve better lives.
Psychology Today also asserts the importance of surrender and choice, together. The “choice” model – or an outdated addiction recovery model which considers choice to matter the most – may be dangerous to undergo. Many drug and alcohol detox centers have since removed it from their programs, redefining the deeper motivations behind addiction recovery.
Motivation Versus Discipline
The next step in understanding how action is far more important than intention concerns two factors: motivation and discipline.
Willpower can’t be obtained in a day. Many alcohol detox treatment centers guide patients through years of addiction prevention practices and coping techniques to build such willpower. Unfortunately, many believe they could improve their lives—in whichever way—by simply “getting” willpower.
Willpower may seem elusive, but it’s startlingly easy to grow. Willpower is bred from self-control, and self-control is manifested through daily actions. The more self-control a person has, the more choices they will be given due to their increasing inner strength.
The American Psychological Association has studied the dynamics of self-control in great detail, and it has frequently given valuable information to detox and treatment centers to assist those struggling with addiction. Many drug detox center patients must, however, learn to focus on manifesting discipline first—and capturing motivation after. This can be done by taking the following steps:
Step One: Delay Gratification
Delaying gratification helps individuals explore, build and keep healthy mindsets of self-control. Science not only suggests—but asserts—that when willpower “fails,” exposing oneself to an immediate, radical stimulus can override the mental relaxation systems responsible for long-term comfort choices.
This happens due to our inherent susceptibility to emotional responses. Every day, we’re given many stimuli which influence our behavior. Over time, we can use these stimuli to build healthy habits, proactive approaches, and clean lifestyles.
As any drug detox center will say, however, this paradigm is a two-way street. Failure to overcome daily stresses—retreating to comfort—will eventually reduce one’s willpower. Individuals with low self-control have very different brain patterns than those which do. Researchers have discovered this connection within the prefrontal cortex—a brain region responsible for executive function control.
Step Two: Manage Your Willpower Resources
The same “hot-cold” stimuli framework is relevant to something called willpower depletion. Willpower depletion occurs when one is unable to resist ongoing temptations. Every day, we exert our willpower. Eventually, this willpower can run thin. Growing bodies of research, however, suggest that repeatedly resisting temptations—understandably—take a toll.
This isn’t to suggest this willpower “expenditure” is unhealthy. Rather, it’s similar to exercise. When we lift heavy weights, run, bike or swim—we’re spending energy. Eventually, we’ll need to rest. In time, a healthy lifestyle of constant physical exercise will give us more energy. If healthy habits are formed, spending energy on healthy habits will also increase your willpower.
Willpower isn’t a limited resource. Drug detox programs structure their recovery roadmaps in specific ways to help patients conserve, spend and recover their willpower easier. Your willpower can’t be permanently depleted—but it can be “worn out” at the end of the day.
Willpower-heavy events are large in number, too. Your day-to-day activities may feel exhausting, reducing your ability to make healthy choices tomorrow. Whether you’re visiting a drug detox center or are simply focusing on healthy lifestyle choices, however, you should still try to manage your mind’s ability to spend energy efficiently by doing the following:
- Getting between eight and 10 hours of sleep per night
- Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and proteins
- Getting plenty of sunlight
- Embracing a healthy hobby
Step Three: Adopt Healthy Behaviors
Speaking of healthy behaviors, you should also resist the urge to embrace unhealthy behaviors. Resist the urge to skip your Monday run, and don’t forget why you’ve created your amazing diet.
In an alcohol detox center, patients are frequently questioned about their daily behaviors. Unsurprisingly, these alcohol detox center patients are held accountable for their actions. Ask a family member, friend or significant other how you can adopt new healthy behaviors. More importantly: Ask them to keep you accountable.
Healthy behaviors, if adhered to, can boost one’s discipline greatly. You won’t feel motivated every day, but motivation is fleeting. Discipline can be built, refined and secured for a lifetime.
Step Four: Strengthen Self-Control
Finally, go the extra mile to make sure you’re regularly exercising your self-control. Drug detox treatment considers self-control to be not only a cornerstone of recovery—but its foundation. Over time, your capacity to have self-control will determine your ability to succeed in detox and treatment centers.
Some experts even believe emphasizing willpower over self-control can be damaging to one’s recovery. While both elements are important to any drug detox treatment program, substance abuse in adolescents, teens and adults alike is powered by a lack of self-control understanding.
Hanging onto Your Self-Discipline
It’s one thing to prioritize discipline over motivation—but it’s another thing entirely to maintain it. Willpower opens many doors, but discipline keeps them open. Again: You can exercise your self-discipline like a muscle. Like a muscle, however, your self-discipline can shrink if it isn’t used often.
Psychological scientists, alcohol detox treatment centers and drug detox treatment centers have studied this aspect of willpower for decades. The brain’s cognitive machinery—and its neurons—can both be summoned and optimized to boost one’s self-control.
The model of self-control used by most detox treatment centers, today, has been incredibly influential. This is because alcohol and drug detox centers work constantly to create better lives for their patients. The Association for Psychological Science is a fantastic resource to examine, here. It covers a number of studies which examine the fundamental changes which happen in the human body as self-control is improved.
Reportedly, those who build more self-control are more vigilant, think clearer and are less prone to emotional dysregulation. Each of these things is important to a drug and alcohol detox center—as each of these things, when in “bad shape,” may increase one’s chance of addiction.
Your Action Principles of Self-Discipline:
Now, it’s time for action. If you’re entering a holistic substance abuse recovery program, you owe it to your mind, body, and lifestyle to put action first.
Every day, your negative and positive habits wage war on each other. It’s much easier to form a bad habit than it is to create a good habit, too. We often use negative habits to cope with life’s many emotional and psychological challenges. Some unhealthy habits include:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Smoking cigarettes
- Substance abuse
- Sexual addiction
Anything in life, of course, can be unhealthy if it is done too much. Before you build positive action habits, make sure you’re not forming negative habits along the way to cope with the daily psychological stress.
Habit One: Associate with Positive People
If your friends lack self-discipline, you’ll lack self-discipline. As the saying goes: You’re the average of the five people you associate with most. Consider joining a club, a sports team or some other result-driven, goal-oriented group which values integrity and excellence. By associating with others who carry positive mindsets, you’ll manifest a positive mindset of your own.
Habit Two: Visualize Discipline
While discipline takes time to build, a little visualization never hurt. Every morning, take some time to visualize yourself as already disciplined. You’ll be surprised by this exercise’s effectiveness. If you want an amazing level of self-discipline, you’ll need to live the life of a self-disciplined individual.
Why wait until you approach your daily good habits? Don’t be complacent, but be comfortable. You’re about to improve your life, so why not enjoy the ride?
Habit Three: Embrace Positive Change
Whether you’re winning or losing your current self-betterment battle, embrace the change. To bring your life to new levels, you’ll need to actively contribute to self-discipline-boosting exercises. Surround yourself with positive messages, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Over time, you’ll be able to change your entire mindset by overcoming this vital hurdle.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Motivation may require struggle to achieve, but you needn’t beat down your mind, body or emotions to achieve it. Again, you’re about to enter a new world of possibilities—all of them addiction-free.
If you’d like to talk with a professional addiction recovery provider about the power of action, call Elevate Addiction Services at 831-440-3568. Our providers have helped recovering individuals soar to new heights, and we believe a little positivity goes a long way.