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Smartlife Sefton

Supporting Recovery In Southport

1. Building and Maintaining Motivation

TOOL: Hierarchy of Values

How many New Year’s resolutions have you made to lose weight, save more money, or quit smoking only to find you’ve lost your motivation within weeks?

How do you stay motivated to make the change that you honestly want? Talking about wanting it isn’t enough. Motivation is the key to maintaining lasting, successful recovery. Motivation is what drives you to meet your goals. Point 1, will help build on those first seeds of motivation so that you can begin the process of change and recovery.

The first tool in Point 1 is the Hierarchy of Values. We all have values that motivate us: people and things that are important to us. Unfortunately, when we are caught in the grip of addiction, our values are often one of the first things to go. The Hierarchy of Values helps to reintroduce what is most important to us; start by writing down as many of your values as you can think of. For example: your relationships, children, health, finances or personal integrity. Active addiction directly impacts these values.

You may become aware that you have chosen drugs and/or alcohol over the values you hold dear. You have compromised your value system.

To stay clean and sober, recovery must become a valued priority.

My Hierarchy of Values Worksheet
What I Value Most

Your list may look something like this:
What I Value Most
1. My relationship with my partner
2. My children
3. My physical health
4. My financial well-being

Look over your list again. Do you notice anything missing? It's rare that a person lists their addictive behaviour as a value even though it's likely to be the single most important priority in their life. An addictive behaviour can become a priority in your life, even though it damages everything else that you think is important.

Now, think about how your addictive behaviour impacts each of your values. Every time you engage in your addictive behaviour, you choose it over your values. You gamble with what you treasure and hold dear; you compromise your value system. Take an honest look at your list and insert your addictive behaviour where you are in fact putting your addictive behaviour. For many people, when they are honest about this, they realise it is number one, their top priority.

What I Value Most -In the Way I Live My Life
1. Engaging with my addictive behaviour 
2. My relationship with my partner
3. My children
4. My physical health
5. My financial well-being

A successful recovery requires sobriety to be a valued priority in your life. Everything else that you value depends on this so it makes sense to put this as your number one priority - look after your recovery and you have made a good start to protect all the other things you value most.

What I Value Most -In the Way I Will Live My Life in Future
1. Abstaining from my addictive behaviour
2. My relationship with my partner
3. My children
4. My physical health
5. My financial well-being

It can be helpful to check-out your Hierarchy of Values, when you are struggling. Check it when you are not thinking clearly and have thoughts of using. You can remind yourself you were thinking better when you wrote it and considered what you want long-term.

You may now have a clearer picture of how your addictive behaviour affects what you value most. These next two exercises will help you look deeper into what you want for yourself and help you identify specific and important goals you want to achieve to bring more meaning to your life.

EXERCISE: The 3 Questions

Your goal is to stop using or acting out. Your desire to change is your motivation to stop your addictive behaviour. It is sometimes hard to see a difference between what you are doing and what you could do differently to achieve your goals. This exercise can help you bring these two perspectives into focus so you can clearly see any discrepancy between them.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  1. What do I want for my future?
  2. What am I currently doing to achieve that?
  3. How do I feel about what I'm currently doing?

An Example of Answers to These Questions:

  1. What do I want for my future? I want to remain clean and sober and enjoy life.
  2. What am I currently doing to achieve that? Drinking/Using and only thinking about change.
  3. How do I feel about what I'm currently doing? Guilty and Depressed .

Now, Answer the Follow-On Questions: 

  • What could I do differently to achieve the future I want?
  • How would changing what I do or getting what I want make me feel? 

Once you see the discrepancy between your feelings about what you're currently doing and your feelings about changing your behaviour, you can use that difference as further motivation to stop using.As you start to feel better about being abstinent, you feel more empowered to achieve your goal in #1: Be a good partner, parent, and employee.

A worksheet for this Exercise can be found in The Recovery Tool Box

TOOL: Cost-Benefit Analysis

Because of the habitual nature of addiction, people don’t stop to think of what they are getting out of their addictive behaviour; however, they must be getting something out of it or they wouldn’t keep doing it. Do you drink to cope with stress? Do you get high to escape a bad relationship? Completing a Cost-Benefit Analysis or CBA will help answer these questions. At some point, the benefits outweighed the costs. A CBA allows you to look at your addictive behaviour under a microscope and examine all the benefits and all the costs, as well as comparing the short-term and long-term benefits of using or not using.

People who want to stop an addictive behaviour have two types of thinking about their behaviour, but never at the same time:

  • Short-term thinking: Using makes you feel immediately better.
  • Long-term thinking: You want to stop the behaviour to lead a healthier life. 

Because short- and long-term thinking don't happen simultaneously, the CBA brings them to one place to help you identify and compare the far-reaching consequences of your behaviour with its "right now" benefits. The CBA also will help you compare long- and short-term benefits of abstinence. To start, consider the costs and benefits of your addictive behaviour.

The Costs and Benefits of Using

Using the CBA example, start by looking at what's pleasurable about your addictive behaviour. Be as specific as possible. For example, instead of writing, "My addictive behaviour helps me cope," write how it helps you cope. "My behaviour makes me brave enough to say what I'm really feeling," or "Acting out helps me forget my loneliness."

Benefits (advantages and rewards)

• What pleasures, benefits, or advantages does it bring to my life?

• With what feelings or moods does my addictive behaviour help me cope (frustration, anger, fear, boredom, depression, anxiety, loneliness, stress, etc.)?

• How does it help me cope?

• What positive feelings, moods, or situations does my addictive behaviour make even better?

• What things does my addictive behaviour help, or at least seem to help me do better?

• Does it help me avoid reality or escape?

• Does it ease or reduce physical or emotional pain?

• Does my addictive behaviour help me socialise and fit in?

• Do I need my addictive behaviour to seem more fun, charming, interesting, or more confident?

• Do I need my addictive behaviour to feel normal? 

Costs (risks and disadvantages)

• What is it that I dislike about using?

• How is it harming me?

• What will my life be like if I continue to use?

• How much time have I lost to my addictive behaviour?

• How many people do I lie to in order to hide my addictive behaviour?

• How do I feel after the effects my addictive behaviour wear off?

• How is using affecting my health?

• What legal problems do I face because of my behaviour?

• How does using affect my relationships?

• What effects has it had on my self-respect and self-confidence?

The Costs and Benefits of Not Using 

Now, do the same exercise for your life without addictive behaviour. Be honest and realistic. 


• How will stopping affect my health?

• How will stopping affect my relationships with the ones I love?

• How will stopping affect my job?

• How much money can I save?

• What will stopping do to my self-respect and self-confidence?

• Will stopping affect my ability to deal with my problems?

• What will I do with the time freed up because I'm not pursuing my addictive behaviour?

• What goals have I abandoned that I could accomplish? 


What will I miss about using? 

• What issues in my life will I have to find new ways to deal with when I stop using? 

• What thoughts and emotions will I have to learn to accept? 

• What will change about my life that I like now because I use?

A worksheet for this Exercise can be found in The Recovery Tool Box

TOOL: Change-Plan Worksheet

The Change-Plan worksheet helps you identify the steps you can take toward your goals for the future and the people who can help them get there.

The Change-Plan worksheet can also help with problem solving because it breaks large problems down into smaller steps to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Change doesn’t necessarily happen without careful deliberation and planning. If we just expect things to happen on their own, we can end up repeating the same behaviors we hoped to change. For example, let’s say the change I want to make is to add more positive social interactions into my life. If I don’t think about how I’m going to accomplish this, I can easily fall back into the habit of working too much, engaging in non-fulfilling activities (such as watching TV), or my addiction.

Instead, if I consciously plan-out the steps I need to take to engage in social activities – such as limiting work hours, setting up appointments with friends, signing-up for a class – I am more likely to actually follow-through. Also, exploratory why I want to make this change will help me build the motivation to stick to my plans.

So the next time you want to make a change in your life, try some thoughtful planning with pencil and paper. SMART Recovery has a great worksheet to help you with your planning, which you can find in The Recovery Tool Box

Smartlife Sefton

Smartlife Sefton