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Motivation for Quitting

Why would anyone ever quit drinking, drugging, eating, gambling or smoking? The answer seems simple, but is not as easy to find as one would suppose. Quitting is often the end result of a long-term, escalating problem that is posed by the use and then addiction to any of these behaviors or substances. How does one determine when quitting is a good idea? That is where the tough answers begin. Alcohol, drug, food, gambling and smoking are behaviors that exist in our social environment in varying degrees of acceptability and easy access. We all know people who do these things with impunity and no seeming consequences for the behavior. Perhaps they are socially acceptable in the circles they frequent or are done without overstepping the boundaries of what is deemed “normal” by their peers, family and friends.

When, for others, does it stop being socially-acceptable? Depending on the social environment that exists for any of us, there are varying degrees of what is considered “normal.” Once again, we must define, for each person, the standards that make these behaviors okay or not okay to participate in. If it has become a problem in a person’s life, it may be the intervention of those people surrounding them that make it clear that it is no longer acceptable behavior. This may or may not be the motivation that a person needs to make the necessary changes in their habits of participating in the behavior.

However, most addicts will not take this initial assessment to heart. They will stop the behavior when in the company of this group of persons, leave the group, or seek new companions and social environments that are more conducive to embracing the behaviors, or all of these. Such measures are common under these circumstances. This individual may continue to spiral into deeper association with persons and habitual use of substances or behaviors, until such time as they eschew all social interactions to avoid anyone’s knowledge of what and how much they are doing. Again, this is not unusual.

What, then, can motivate them to see the patterns and become motivated to stop? A combination of factors will need to be present for them to become entirely ready to address the problem. It is most often an intrinsic, or inner drive to stop the disagreeable consequences that have begun to surface surrounding their actions. This may be a good time for worried friends, family members and co-workers to talk to them about their concerns with the choices being made.

If the addict is willing to hear this information, they may be approachable to finding solutions as well. This is a good opening, but the rest of the motivation will have to come from within the addict themselves. While it may be possible for them to initially desire to keep a relationship with a beloved family member, a job, or to stop having legal consequences occur, there needs to be a determination by the addict that they are doing it for themselves. While all of these other situations may cause pain and hurt the addict, they will then become discouraged and decide that they have no willingness to quit. Until they are determined to stop because they care enough about themselves, it will not happen. All other motivating factors can, and will, change in time, anyway. They must care enough to make the radical changes that recovery will demand.

Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.

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