By Sarah Allen Benton, MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
Why is change so hard? While it is a constant in our lives, we so often resist it. It is human nature to create patterns that bring a sense of comfort, relief or excitement to our lives. People also differ in terms of what “vices” they are drawn to and habits they engage in based on family history, personality, access, culture, brain chemistry, schedule, friends and family, etc.
Addictions serve a purpose- even when they are self-destructive. Therefore, getting sober is going “against the grain” and counterintuitive to the way that an individual has been operating. Although some people with Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) may feel initially motivated to change, the reality of sobriety and maintaining change may be harder than anticipated. Returning to an addictive behavior can be the path of least resistance. In contrast, abstaining from this pattern takes an immense amount of effort and distress tolerance. Returning to substance use is a constant pull for a person in early sobriety, as it would be a return to a shortcut for coping with life and feelings.
There are 5 stages of change that are often referred to in addiction treatment: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. When reading these terms, it becomes clear that change is not a simple, nor linear process. Many individuals may begin treatment in an Action stage, and then regress to a previous stage. The IHAT treatment team supports family members in relating to their loved one in ways that can best facilitate and maintain change. Family members themselves need to operate differently in order to create a healthy home environment that embraces the shifts needed for recovery.
Recovery is a group effort and when it is attempted alone, can be extremely isolating and often shameful. The In-Home Addiction Treatment (IHAT) model integrates a recovery community, the family system and social supports. This model has the advantage of treating clients in their home environment for a year-allowing for the treatment team to support the client in addressing challenges in their home and community over a long period of time.
The IHAT Institute is training healthcare professionals to administer this innovative model of care. It is clear that addiction treatment needs to be creative and also flexible during these unprecedented times. The changes required to maintain sobriety can feel insurmountable. Therefore, the treatment team, family system and client need to be working in a parallel process towards healing.