Negative vs. Posi-tive Motivation in Addiction Recovery, By Abbeycare

negative vs positive motivation in alcoholism recovery

In helping ourselves or our loved ones recover from alcohol or drug addiction and achieve long term sobri-ety, which motivational style works best – negative or positive?

What provides us with the most incentive to seek help initially, and the most vigour when the going gets tough?

Like most things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all solu-tion. Much can depend on where the individual is, in their personal recovery journey.

Still In Denial….Or Long Term Survivor?

Are you still steeped in denial, beginning to realise the extent of the addiction, the hiding, the lies…..or are you a long term recovery survivor, feeling a short term wobble?

For those in denial, or the start of their recovery, the negative motivation to quit, and potential negative impacts on your life of continuing the addiction, usual-ly have more impact.

Along with the chemical effects of alcohol, those in the addictive spiral often have the type of co-existing trau-ma, grief, depression, and anxiety issues written about many times in this blog. Of course, these are the same issues the individual has been trying to cope with, when the spiral of addiction began.

Illustrating the potential positives of getting help, and the good that the individual will see, hear or feel when in recovery, usually does little for those already both chemically and emotionally depressed.

But clearly laying out specific negative possibilities – without overdoing it – can help some to finally get the help they need. It’s a case of cruel to be kind here – the short term pain for the long term gain of recovery , sobriety, and…. hope.

Pushing the individual over the pain threshold, by be-ing as specific as possible about the penalties, can be the medium to help our loved one move into a place of admission, willingness, and recovery. For instance:
– What supports will be removed?
– What resources will be taken away?
– What relationships will be under threat, or dissolve? – When must they get help by?

Indeed, Abbeycare Scotland have developed a web-based tool to help with just this approach – the Alcohol Demotivator.

After entering usage details and gender information, the tool lays out the specific negative conse-quences of continuing to drink at that level, including financial spend, risk levels, and health implications.

Yet for others already on a more positive long term recovery jour-ney, but perhaps experiencing a short term trigger or temptation to relapse, a positive perspective can work more effectively, e.g.

– How has life been brighter since you gave up alcohol?
– How do you enjoy seeing the faces of others around you in recovery, lis-tening to their help, and feeling part of the supportive community?
– How proud will you feel in 3 months time, looking back, knowing you kept going, knowing you took the responsibility you needed to take, and feeling the benefits?

In this way we can use the positive experiences the in-dividual has already racked up in recovery, as reference points to look forward from.

This type of approach can also work for those who have relapsed entirely, or those with exceptional will-ingness to start their recovery journey for the first time in earnest.

The Abbeycare Alcohol Demotivator is available here:

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