I’ve written about the stages of change before. You know, the model that includes: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. I want to focus on the important step of preparation today.
Intention to do something is very different than actively working towards the change one wants to see. I may want to get my oil changed in my car, however, if I don’t make an appointment, or buy the necessary items needed to do it on my own, the dirty oil will not get switched out for clean oil. When working towards making change in one’s recovery, the same principles apply.
Let’s review a few scenarios. Can you relate?
#1 Viktor and People Pleasing.
Viktor knows he is a people pleaser and avoids conflict in any way he can, leading him to feeling used, frustrated and lonely. He often tells his therapist how he would like to be assertive and confident as he colleague Trevor.
Intent? Change? Well, he wants to be confident, however there is no mention or plan of how he will invoke a change in behaviour towards his end goal.
#2 Charlene and Binge Breaking.
Charlene recently relapsed. She knows if she continues down this path, she will likely end up even more depressed and isolated. She meets with her therapist to discuss high risk situations where she has a tendency to binge. One such situation is coming up this weekend. Her and her therapist come up with a concrete plan filled with skills and alternative options, some of which involve prep work before she goes, such as making a meal plan. The weekend approaches and Charlene realizes she hasn’t done any of the prep work and decides to wing it.
Charlene has the awareness that if nothing changes, nothing changes, leading to depression and isolation. She wants to choose a different path, and comes up with a plan. She, however, failed to follow through with the prep work needed for the plan to be successful.
#3 Jamie and Restricting.
It’s cottage season. This is the first summer in years where she has been back to her cottage as it used to be the prime place where restricting would occur. Wanting to be able to enjoy her time away, while knowing it will also be triggering, she asks her support group for ideas on how to stay on track with eating all summer. They suggest that making a 2 month goal may not be realistic and to consider making a S.M.A.R.T. goal, as well as a list of potential barriers. Jamie goes home, writes up a plan and runs it by the group the following week for feedback. Her plan is as follows:
S - specific: follow meal plan while at cottage this weekend
M - measurable: after each meal, I will be able to measure whether or not I have restricted and am on track with my weekend goal
A - attainable: it is possible for me to follow my meal plan, I’ve done it before
R - realistic: it is reasonable to set the goal to not restrict while at my cottage as I’m only there for the weekend this trip
T - timely: by the end of the weekend, this goal will be over
Things to do Before and During My Trip in Preparation:
- talk to dietician about meal plan, create one together (appointment made for next Wednesday)
- talk with family around what we plan on doing while away so I have an idea on how to plan my meals
- ask a friend if I can call them over the weekend if I need support around meal times
- shop for food/snack items (Markus agreed and will be available)
- ask someone to eat with me at meal times (talked with uncle Bill to have breakfast together, cousin Trish will eat lunch)
- write up cope cards/affirmations to help remind me why I want to stick to my meal plan (ie: I can do this, It’s just one weekend, I’m doing the best I can, I’ve worked too hard to get where I am, This feeling will pass)
- come up with possible barriers (see below)
- bring journal, recovery app, distraction box (things I use when needing to be distracted… ie: colouring book, movies, book, word searches, wool, etc).
- something might up come up unexpectedly while at the cottage delaying or changing my meal plan
- people not wanting to eat at regular times
- being reminded of old patterns/memories while at cottage
- overwhelming feelings emerge, loud ED voice
- talk to group upon return informing them how it went
- talk to therapist and dietician
Jamie may still struggle over the course of the weekend. Having a plan in place does not guarantee it will be successfully met. It does, however, enable one to be more prepared and mindful as to what to expect, increasing the likelihood of staying on track. Also, having an accountability partner or group is a great way to follow through on a change. We all need encouragement from time to time, especially when working on recovery.
What’s your next goal? Have you prepared for it?