Stages of Change

You have probably heard of the 'stages of change' used for addictions like substance use or alcoholics. There are five 'steps', each of which is characterized by certain criteria or ways of thinking and acting. The first is 'pre-contemplation', where the person does not see that there is a problem or need for change. The second is 'contemplation' - realizing that there is a problem but the person is not yet prepared to make changes. The third stage is 'preparation', where the individual is preparing to make steps to getting better. The fourth step is 'action' - the person starts taking real steps (that can be seen) to recover. The final stage is 'maintenance', where the individual has made great progress and is trying to keep it going.

The interesting thing about these stages is that they are not linear - a person may start at the second or third stage, or they may reach the final stage and find themselves starting back at one all over again. ED is a great example of this. Many patients with ED are stuck in the pre-contemplation stage for a long time because they cannot see, or do not want to admit, that they are sick. This prolongs the illness and puts them at higher risk for complications.

I was one of the rare ED patients that always KNEW that there was a problem, but I wanted it to be kept on the 'down-low'. I did not want my parents or friends worrying about me or pressuring me to stop being ill. It took me a long time to realize that I was getting VERY sick. Even at that point, I was scared to get help. I did, however, take some steps to helping myself. I sought out books on recovery and listened to professional speakers. So, in a sense, I was entering into the 'contemplation' and 'action' stages. Testing out treatment put me into the 'action' stage. And when I go home, continuing on this way to recovery and getting better will help me progress towards the 'maintenance' stage.

Understandably, each step has its challenges. It is difficult to first admit that there is a problem, let alone to seek out help. Then, it is ever so hard to stick with a plan in order to get better. And once you are better, it is even more of a challenge to maintain the progress and success that you have achieved. ED makes it even more stressful because he is so deceptive and knows exactly what to say to make me feel down about myself and my life. He therefore sneaks back into my life and tries to put me down the rabbit hole all over again. He is angry when I am in the action and maintenance stages because that deceases his power and importance in my life. So he will fight tooth and nail to get back into the picture.

I have learned that the stages of change can be quite useful when trying to recover. I am able to take a step back and analyze where I am at, what I am doing, where I am going, and what I need to do to get there. However, this takes a lot of practice and discipline - I mean, who wants to admit that they are sick or imperfect? one. And, being a perfectionist, I hate it when I look weak or vulnerable to others, and sometimes this means that admitting that I have a problem can be difficult. With time and effort, I have seen that people - the true friends in my life who sincerely care and wish to help - will not judge me because of my illness. They will strive to assist me whenever I need it, and they will be glad that I am reaching out for help. This makes it easier for me to work hard, to continue in the 'action' stage and move towards the 'maintenance' stage.

It is not an easy path, and like I alluded to before, it is not always a linear path. But one thing I know for sure is that no matter where I am, God is always there. Isaiah 45:2 says that the Lord '...[goes] before you'. And as long as I remain steadfast in my faith, I know that He is always with me, guiding my ways and lighting up my paths.

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