Personality plays a significant role in addiction. Many people talk about having an addictive personality, and this statement has a ring of truth to it. Certain personality traits can increase a person’s risk of developing addiction — and prevent the changes necessary to overcome the addiction.
Many addicts are narcissistic, make impulsive decisions, have a need for excitement or new sensations, lack patience, value deviant behavior, and feel alienated from society. It is also typical for addicts to have a pessimistic outlook on the world, and to experience feelings of depression or anxiety. Many addicts also feel worthless, hopeless, and do not believe that treatment will help. Unless they believe otherwise, treatment will not work.
How to Change your Personality
In order to bring about change, you have to first believe that you can be different. Foremost, an addict needs to have hope — and confidence — that things can change. For many, this is the hardest part of recovery. Although a person cannot go from a pessimist to an optimist overnight, it is important to see the world through a more positive light.
Certain personality traits need to be recognized before they can be changed. If you cannot change certain personality traits, you have to learn new, healthy ways to express them, rather than relying upon destructive thoughts and behavior.
The best way to make changes to your personality is to learn how to alter your destructive behavior patterns. Personality and behavior are closely related. Many destructive thought patterns turn into destructive behavior, which in turn becomes your normal behavior.
Unless new patterns of behavior are taught to replace the old, then the cycle of abuse will continue. Psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, will help you recognize the unhealthy personality traits and distorted thoughts and behavior patterns and teach new, healthy replacements.
The Stages of Change
Change does not happen overnight. You have to be patient and acknowledge that you can learn to change. When you attempt to make changes to these self-destructive patterns, you will typically go through five stages of change, which were first indentify in 1982 by Prochaska and DiClemente and have since been validated by several hundred studies.
The stages include:
By acknowledging your current state, you can discuss the right strategies to continue to move through the states.
The precontemplation stage occurs when you are not ready to change, when you are typically stuck in denial. Contemplation begins when you start to admit you have a problem and are considering quitting, but you remain unsure. Preparation happens when you decide that you will quit and you readying yourself to make the change.
Action is the first stage when you begin to really change. This stage can be difficult, and you might face several bumps in the road. You need to have support during this stage. Maintenance occurs when you are still in the early days of recovery and change and still need some support. Termination occurs when you have successfully changed.
Overcoming the Odds
Change can occur, and you can find the strength to overcome your addiction. You first have to admit you need help and then seek support in creating enough of a personality change to facilitate the changes necessary for recovery. For some people, the 12-step program and belief in a higher power helps them create the necessary change to their personality.
In the second appendix of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, they discuss their belief in spiritual awakening, saying it is part of the “personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism.” They recognize that this type of change develops slowly over time, and you should too.