Setting Goals You Can Achieve
New Year’s Eve – Setting Goals Episode
Voiceover: Welcome to the Options Save Lives weekly live stream, where we spend an hour each week exploring life improving topics through the lens of alcohol recovery, and the Sinclair Method. Every week we take on a new question, topic or common challenge to empower people to either build a better relationship with alcohol, or to eliminate it completely. Episodes are filmed live on twitch at twitch.tv/cthreefoundation, and the audience is encouraged to ask questions and engage with the host and guests. The Options Save Lives weekly stream is hosted by Executive Director Jenny Williamson, and is produced by the C Three Foundation with the support of R Street Institute and other generous sponsors. For more information about the C Three Foundation, or the Sinclair Method, visit our website at cthreefoundation.org.
Jenny: Ah, there we go. Now my mike if off mute. Hello everyone. Thank you for tuning in to the final Options Save Lives weekly live stream of 2021. As always, I’m Jenny Williamson, Executive Director of the C Three Foundation and your host for the next hour. How is everybody today? Happy New Year. Where are you watching from? And how close are you to 2022? So, as always, we're streaming live from the C Three Foundation office here in Fort Myers, Florida. If you're new to the stream, welcome. Make sure you take a moment and say “hello” in the chat area in the comments if you're watching, or put it in the comments if you're watching a replay. We've got, I'm expecting a smaller than normal crowd for the live broadcast tonight. But hopefully this stream will get a lot of replays. So I'd love to see comments in the chat area on our YouTube, on our Vimeo, and you can leave those, that feedback, on our social media as well. So we've got seven hours to go from our South Wales and London based audience. We've got just under 12 hours to go here in Fort Myers, and so are you excited for the new year? I know I am. I'm just, I'm kind of done with 2021. So I'm ready to continue moving forward.
So this week, we're going to talk a bit about those pesky little annual promises we make and break with ourselves every year. That's right. New Year's Resolutions. Do you make resolutions? And if you do, how often do you really keep them? I mean, I gotta be completely honest. The only New Year's Resolution I have ever kept was the year I just got so fed up I said, “You know what, I am never making another New Year's Resolution ever again.” That was literally the only one I've been able to keep. So I know that sounds a little extreme. But I think the reason why it's actually been a good thing for me, should probably become clearer as we talk over the next hour. Oh, wow, we've got some people out there who have never made a New Year's Resolution. So that's, that's actually in my opinion, probably a good thing. So, whether you're trying to cut back on alcohol using the Sinclair Method, pledge to exercise more, or eat better, or commit to self-care, or any other goal for 2022 or beyond, I hope you're gonna find something useful in this video and in this chat today. As you can see, we have opted not to book a guest since it's the holiday, so please audience, don't be shy. I love that you guys are out there commenting, and I love seeing the normal, usual faces – mudforce, Nat, Annette. Love to see you guys. You guys are great, and Happy New Year.
So before we jump in to today's topic, for those of you who were either live with us last week, or who watched the replay on one of our sites, did our holiday survival tips show help you navigate through the holiday weekend at all? Because I'd love to hear back about that. Here in Fort Myers, in Florida, we had absolutely perfect weather for my annual tradition of Beachmas. And with the high tide peaking just after sunset, it made these awesome little isolated pockets where the beach just wasn't easy to simply walk through and congregate. So we had this little cove right to ourselves for most of the time that we were out there, and it was glorious, because there were way too many people out in my area on Christmas Day. I swear, I didn't see any masks outside of our group. So it was great to find a little spot where we could just be away from the crowds and enjoy the beach and our traditional holiday. And so every year we always watch for dolphins, and this year, the highlight did not disappoint. Like when I first spotted that little telltale fin out in the water, the sun had just ducked below some clouds. So it was about 100 yards off the beach in between us and the setting sun. And then the dolphin jumped clean out of the water and did this amazing flip, perfectly silhouetted by the setting sun, and it was, it was just magical. And for me, it just reminded me of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy film and that opening number of “So Long and Thanks for the Fish.” It was, well let's just say, that'll carry me through until next Beachmas, because it was something that definitely is leading me to ending the year on a great note, because it was just absolutely amazing. So hopefully you guys have had something special that you can take away from 2021 even if it's been a rough year. And oh, have some tears and cuddles and soggy Christmas weeks. So yeah, as someone said in the comments there, “2022 has got to be better than 2021.” So hopefully we can end this year on a good note together.
So moving on. So some of you are on or beyond the cusp of 2022. We do have some Australians and New Zealand's that are in our TSM community, so some of you may already be in next year. And the frenzy of the holidays is finally almost over. But what is it about a New Year that leaves us contemplating seemingly our entire series of life choices and our future? Why? What is it about January 1st, that inspires us to believe that a New Year is a clean slate, when literally every single day offers us that clean slate opportunity? You know, and I don't know, maybe it's an arbitrary thing, but New Years, because it's so often seen as a clean slate, it leads us to making some lofty goals. Exercise more, lose weight, drink less alcohol, stop smoking, get organized, save money, the list goes on and on. I don't know, maybe it's the grand abstract thought that this is going to be the year. This is going to be the year when we revolutionize our lives and finally find that best version of ourselves. So we spend time, and we focus on it being a New Year to create new change. And, honestly, to some degree, it's the someday trap. It brings to mind a quote from a pretty popular show. Some of you may have heard of a little show called Westworld, maybe you’re fans, so if you are, you'll recognize this one. “Someday sounds a lot like a thing people say when they actually mean never.” And to be honest, that's one of the reasons why so many New Year's Resolutions fail and why I stopped making them, because the best time to make them isn’t someday in the future. The best time to make a change is today, no matter what day today actually is.
So, with a title of, you know, setting goals you can achieve, you might be thinking I'm about ready to head right into yet another spiel about setting SMART goals. I mean, isn't that the default that people go to when they talk about goals? Well, if that's what you're expecting, you're wrong. Today we're actually going to talk about how we can use the stages of change, which is a behavioral model, to help us make these big lofty promises actually a bit more achievable both at New Years and all year long. So why? Well, SMART goals are great when you get down to the nitty gritty part of the change process. They're absolutely important. But the M in Smart is for measurable, and at New Years, a lot of resolutions are a lot of big lofty goals. They’re a bit ambiguous. They don't easily measure down. Drink less. Well how much less? Save money. How much money? Exercise more. To what end? Do you want to build muscle, lose fat, increase your cardiovascular health? You know, we start with these really huge goals, and then we just try to flip our lives upside down with the hope that suddenly, because it's a New Year everything will work this time. But the overwhelming majority of New Year's Resolutions wind up as failures. And although we find ourselves on common ground with millions of other people who also fail to keep their resolution, we start kicking ourselves, we pile on negative self-talk, and we make ourselves feel like we're incapable of creating the lives we want to live.
So instead of just looking at better ways to make goals, I'm going to break down the stages of change, and how you need to understand that before you can even get into trying to make smart goals. And today I'm going to break things down specifically for people who are struggling with alcohol, for people who are on the Sinclair Method, there'll be specific notes. And I'm also going to discuss other things that can be applied to any behavior change situations. So whether alcohol is what you want to change in your life or not today, hopefully you can find something beneficial in what we're about to talk about for the next hour. If you do struggle with alcohol use disorder, or if you're just concerned that you're drinking more than you're comfortable with, I hope that by the time I'm done here, you're gonna really see and understand that your inability to quote unquote “fix yourself on your own”, it's not some character flaw caused by alcohol or addiction. If about 80% of New Year's Resolutions fail, and alcohol addiction has about an 80% relapse rate, well, I think that's pretty significant. It tells me there's a common thread. It's the human condition that is standing in the way of making the changes in your life, and that's freaking hard to do. And if you don't struggle with alcohol addiction, I hope that you're able to not only gain insight that will help you make the changes that you want to make in your life. But I also hope that you gain an extra layer of empathy for the people in your life who are trying to give up alcohol or trying to cut back or whatever substance or addiction they are trying to struggle with and get through. Because their struggle isn't any different than the struggle that anyone else is trying to make. It's hard and they're doing their best.
So, the Stages of Change, which are otherwise known as the Transtheoretical Model. It was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 70s. Below the video on the C Three Foundation website once I get this episode uploaded, I'll have a link to that. It's already set up so that you can read more about the behavior change model if you're interested. But there are six basic parts to the Stages of Change. First, there's Precontemplation, then Contemplation. Then there's Preparation, also sometimes called Determination and you don't hit Action until the fourth stage. Action is followed by Maintenance and a lot of people will stop the model right there. But the full model actually includes Termination as well. So let's start breaking these down. Anybody in the audience, have you heard about the stages of change? Is this a new concept for you? Or is this something that you've heard about and looked into before? because I'd love to know that.
So Precontemplation. This is that first stage, and it basically means that the person who needs to make a change really doesn't see the problem. Sometimes people call that denial, or maybe you just simply see that the person isn't ready for change. So this is where a lot of people come to us when they have a concern. They're concerned about their family and friends. You know, we hear “My wife or my boyfriend, my uncle, niece, son, parent, they're drinking a lot and I'm concerned. How do I help them when they think their drinking is normal?” Well, this is probably one of the toughest things and toughest conversations that we have to have with people. Traditional recovery modalities like to lean in on the tough love angle. No matter what the cost, make that person see the problem. There are so many issues with that. First of all, the so called tough love is not backed by any kind of research that indicates it works. In a lot of cases, it actually shifts the focus away from what the actual problem is, which, you know, in the case of alcohol is excess drinking, and the health and safety risks that come with it. So where does that focus go? It goes on you, the person who cares. You become the focus of the problem, because now it's not what the substance, what the alcohol is doing in the life of that person, what the risks to that person is. Now you're saying that, “Okay, this is what it's doing to me.” And that's not really effective, but a lot of people end up taking that route when their loved one is in the Precontemplation stage. And those attempts will usually cause further shame, guilt, isolation. And you know what? Shame, guilt and isolation are massive triggers for people to drink or use the substance that they're addicted to even more. So tough love can actually make that situation worse.
So this is where I'm going to step back for a moment and put out a disclaimer. There's such a pervasive myth that to help someone with addiction, you have to have also had an addiction. Now this can lead people into a couple of logical pitfalls when it comes to harm reduction in moderation. Things like, and I've actually heard these, that I'm personally advocating for the Sinclair Method and harm reduction and moderation, because it's enabling me personally to continue drinking, or because I'm in denial about an addiction. But here's the thing. While I've had long periods of risky drinking behavior, I was lucky enough not to develop a dependence on alcohol. And I've always been a lightweight. I've always made the conscious choice when I over drank. It was never compulsory or driven by cravings, but I do have family members and friends who were not as lucky. So, you know what, I understand that fear. I understand the helplessness and hopelessness and the frustration of knowing that I've got a bevy of resources, if only the people I care about would listen and act on that information that I'm willing to give. So when, if you're a family member, or a friend of someone who's struggling, you know, I'm not trying to point fingers at you for trying tough love. I'm not trying to make excuses for your loved one out of some shared kinship of addiction. I'm trying to let you know that what you've been told about tough love is wrong. It's not your fault that you've been given information that's actually more likely to harm your loved one and your relationship with them than to help them. So please, hopefully, you'll take the information in a way that will help you do what you really, actually, genuinely want to do. And that's help the person you care about. Because, again, I'm actually advocating for the Sinclair Method and for harm reduction and moderation, because I've seen the science, and I have seen it work in 1000s of people. It benefits me only to the extent that it benefits all of society to help people who are struggling with addiction. So if you're actually personally in the Precontemplation stage, well, you know what, we're never actually able to help ourselves there, because well, we don't see the need to. So, often those who want us to change try to push people directly to Action. But that's problematic, too. So that really sets the tone for why so many people say, “Okay, this is it, I'm going to change. I'm never going to do that again.” Or “I'm going to start doing that and I'm going to do that all the time.” And then we start out, and we fail.
So if you've made any resolutions, if you've made any promises to yourself, think about it for a moment. Is it something that you're really doing for yourself? Are you promising to make the change for you, or for someone else? Or is it because society has made you feel as though you must? Maybe you were one of the almost everyone who over indulged in treats over the holiday, and you're already seeing ads and articles for swimwear season and seeing the gym membership commercials. But is that really what you're concerned about? Or is it just social pressure that it's a New Year, you should lose weight? Chances are, if you're promising to make a change, and it's for someone else, you're probably in Precontemplation. And if you try to jump right to Action, your chance of ultimately failing is pretty high. That's why a slow and steady approach works just so much better. Yeah, and I know, no one ever wants to wait for a loved one to make a change. With alcohol and other addictive substances, every day can carry literal mortal risk. Every day can be wrapped in fear. And it's not easy. But if you focus on the long game, you're likely to have better luck. Patience and understanding are the absolute keys when someone you care about is stuck in the Precontemplation stage. Gather your resources, increase your own knowledge, but don't overwhelm them with facts and figures and all the reasons they need to change quite yet, because you're likely to see it backfire. In fact, there's a comment in the Twitch stream that “tough love causes the lizard brain to kick in, and when you're already struggling to deal with that, the lizard brain is much easier to listen to than the person giving you tough love”. And that's the absolute truth. You know, you've really got to wait till they're receptive. And if you take the tough love route, you may isolate them and block that receptive chance, you know, so once they're receptive, if you haven't isolated them, they're much more likely to actually really hear you later when they're ready. And I get it, it's hard. But unfortunately, it's, I've seen it, I've seen it.
So moving along to the Contemplation stage. In the Contemplation stage, that's when we can start actually weighing those pros and cons a little bit more objectively, thoughtfully even. If your loved one is in this stage, they're going to be more receptive to information. I mean, they may not take it and immediately run with it, but they're going to at least be more likely to listen. There is still quite a bit of hesitancy in the Contemplation stage. But this is where we are when, you know, when we say things, like “I know I need to make a change, but I don't know where to start. I don't know what my options are.” For those with alcohol use disorder, this stage can be really tricky. For too long, it's been said that abstinence is the only way. That harm reduction is enabling, or that moderation is impossible, or that anything short of 100% sobriety is just another delusion that comes from an addiction that wants to stay alive. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've heard someone say they know they need to stop drinking, but no matter how many times they stop, it never lasts, so how will this be any different? In this stage, people really want to make changes. But with the how of things tripping them up, it's really easy to get stuck there. Too much information can still overwhelm people into inaction, and so that can be very problematic. While too little information can send us jumping into the wrong action and then to failure and frustration. Then rinse and repeat.
So objectively weighing the pros and cons of change can help us shift into the next stage. So from a personal level for me, for years I have been wanting to exercise on a regular basis. I'd start. I'd overdo it, and then I’d just stop entirely. Often the period of time between each attempt would then become longer than the last. Well, at C Three Foundation we are always encouraging people to look at their drinking patterns, recognize habits and excuses, and then once the obstacles are identified, create a manageable strategy to overcome those barriers. Well, in an effort to walk the walk, and in recognition that any sizable behavior change is hard, I took a critical look at the barriers that kept me from creating a normal, regular exercise routine. I'm too busy. I'm too tired. I'm out of shape. It's so easy to overdo it, you know, one excuse after another. Well nothing in my initial list of obstacles was a legitimate barrier. There wasn't a single reason why I couldn't start exercising. But then came the epiphany. The actual barrier that was standing in my way, is that, you know what, I simply don't like to exercise. I want the health benefits of exercise, but I don't want to devote my time and energy to working out. Wow, that was such an awakening for me.
You know, if you struggle with alcohol, you've probably said something similar to yourself at some time. You know, “I want the mental and physical and social benefits of sobriety, but I like alcohol”. You know,” I like the taste”, or “I like the way it feels to be buzzed or to be relaxed by drinking”, or “I just can't imagine the rest of my life without any alcohol whatsoever”. Coming to the realization that you want the benefits, but you don't actually want the change, that can stir up a whole bunch of feelings, both good and bad. You know, I went through, What is wrong with me? You know, that was the first thing I asked myself. How can I sit here and know what the benefits are, and that they are absolutely 100% healthy and worthwhile, and that it's going to lead me to better overall health, less pain, less fatigue, less soreness? And knowing that, you know, there are times that I just miss out on activities that I would normally just do, because I'm out of shape, and it was like, I was standing there stomping my foot like a toddler and saying “I don't wanna”. You know, I think for people who aren't addicted to alcohol, who are trying to help support loved ones and friends, I think it's really important to realize that we all have our things that we know we should be doing that are better for us. And we, no matter how much we know, we just can't stop and bring ourselves to do it and to commit to it.
And I feel like it's such an empathy point when we can stop and understand that it’s not a character flaw, it’s not a moral failure on behalf of our loved ones and friends who are struggling with addiction. Again, and I'm gonna say this over and over again, change is hard. It's so hard. And so why should it be any different for someone who's trying to change their life when there's an addiction? If anything, it's harder, because there's a chemical dependency, there's a wiring, there is a physical, neurological component. It's more than just habit. It's more than a choice. So, when your loved one keeps saying that they want to stop drinking, they want to learn to cut back and then they fail, they're not bad people. They're not intentionally trying to lie to you. They know drinking less or not drinking at all is going to be better for them in the long run, for their relationships, for everything about their lives, but they don't know how to take that knowledge and effectively apply it in a way that removes the obstacles that stand in their way. So please, don't mistake a failure to follow through on a promise to stop drinking or to cut back, as a lack of commitment. More often than not, it's frustration that you're seeing. The key is, if it’s you, not to get stuck there, or if it's your loved one, to be empathetic and help to try to nudge them out of that Precontemplation stage, and help just support them through what they're trying to deal with and change. Information overload, that's not going to help though, because that can stop progress entirely, because it just adds to the frustration.
So, moving next to the Preparation or Determination stage. So this stage of change is where planning and knowledge start to meet action. This is where we start easing ourselves into change slowly. Now, a lot of people skip over this entirely when they're making New Year's Resolutions. They go right from contemplative to action and then they get frustrated when it doesn't last. Now Preparation may look a bit different for everyone. For me, it meant investing in a Fitbit to prove to myself that I wasn't as bad off as I thought I was. After all, how hard can it possibly be to hit 10,000 steps in a day? So I decided I'd go for about a week just getting the health benefits of regular exercise, just by figuring out what I was doing that already led to that and trying to do more of it instead of doing quote unquote “exercise”. I took the first week and I made absolutely no changes to my routine. I just wanted to establish that baseline. See how active I really am, and then figure out ways to be more active without actually exercising. Now for those new to the Sinclair Method, Preparation may include moving from the research they did in the Contemplative stage to booking a medical evaluation and getting a prescription filled. It may be tracking your drinks for a week before you start so that you employ a little bit of mindfulness and know where you're at, so you can figure out what you need to do next.
Now, one of the things that can happen is that some people can get stuck in the Preparation stage. Why? Well, fear of failure. It is such a common reason. You know, whether a person is you know, concerned that they're gonna relapse for the umpteenth time or, you know, causing both internal and external disappointment, or whether a person is tentative, because past experiences with failing to make a change has left them thinking they're not able to. You know, it's just, it's not a failure if you settle into that Preparation stage for a while, while you check in with yourself about the direction you want to go, as long as you do continue to take the next step. You know, after a week, for me, things fell pretty grim. On an average day I wasn't even consistently hitting 2,500 steps. It would have been so easy for me to feel overwhelmed and give up. But I realized that I really needed to take the advice that I so frequently give to others. Slow, steady, manageable, meaningful changes. Jumping from where I was to 10,000 steps a day was not going to happen overnight. In fact, if I tried to make it happen, it would have led to the same cycle of try, overdue, fail, feel crappy about myself that had never worked in the past. So I reset the goal on my Fitbit to something manageable, and I moved on to the next stage.
We see people struggle with this all the time with the Sinclair Method. They just, they know where they want to go. They know they want to cut down to maybe drinking once or twice a month. And they're coming in drinking, you know, 120 plus standard drinks every week, and they get frustrated because they don't reach their goal fast enough. Family, and I cringe every time I hear this. Family members are often like, “I'll give you a month, maybe two and if it hasn't worked by then, then I won't support your use of the Sinclair Method anymore”. And that's, that's pretty devastating because first of all, putting arbitrary limits on fixing what for many people is a multiple, decades long, conditioned behavior pattern and addiction, you can't fix that in two months. You can't fix that in 30 days. That's why the relapse rate is so high. Slow and steady wins the race. Absolutely. You know, it's, it gets frustrating. Everybody has to really set their own pace. And that happens when you get into the Action stage.
So in the Action stage, change finally starts. It's when TSM’ers start taking the medication and they follow the protocol. It's when effort has to be applied and goals start to begin to feel achievable for the first time. But it's not easy, and it's not as simple as deciding to do whatever it is that needs to be done and then having it happen. Action. The Action stage is where the work happens. And first, thanks to the motivation that you build up and the momentum of starting something new, that action phase can feel easy. People on the Sinclair Method often refer to this as the honeymoon phase. Occasionally they believe that it's the pill working and that it's the miracle they prayed for, have hoped for, or they have searched for, that is really easy and effortless. Well, unfortunately that's the motivation working, and motivation has a way of waning. The pill doesn't work instantly, and it takes a lot of repetition to break that alcohol equals reward connection in the brain. The process of extinction happens during the Action stage, and it can be frustrating at times to have to continue applying effort, especially when rough patches and stressful situations happen. But there's no right or wrong duration for somebody to be in this stage, for any stage for that matter.
If you think of the Stages of Change like a road trip, and I'll use this analogy, because we frequently refer to TSM as a recovery journey. Precontemplation is not wanting to travel anywhere. Contemplation is realizing you want to travel, but not really knowing where you want to go yet. Preparation is picking the destination, deciding the route and picking your vacation dates. Action is getting into your car and driving. And just like any road trip, you may find you need to take stops or detours along the way. You may have to stop and consult the map and change your course. You may find that you've got to take a break or two along the way. But you know what? That's okay. You can't compare your journey to anyone else's, because they're coming from a different place. They're leaving at a different time. They might be traveling under entirely different conditions. So in a sense, don't be surprised if you find yourself circling back to a previous stage. It's not a failure. You might find that you need to step back and reassess what you're doing and how you're doing it. That's okay, it's normal.
Personally, I expect to stay in the Action stage for quite a while, because I have quite a lot of work ahead of me. I mean, the first thing I did, is I had to lower my goal to something achievable. Something that would require me to put in a little effort. Something that I needed to make myself a little uncomfortable in order to achieve. Now for me that looks like 3,000 steps a day right now. Now I'm not ready to go full on out, quote unquote “exercise”, because that's just not happening. So I've started doing the little things. I’m parking my car as far away from the front door of the office building as I can. I’ve stopped checking the mailbox when I walk into the building, and instead now I go upstairs and I turn the computer on and the printer and get everything powered up, and then I walk back down stairs to go check the mail. Little things. You know, if someone orders a key chain or a DVD or a book, instead of just leaving it on my desk and waiting until the end of the day and carrying it down with me and dropping it off at the post office, I take it downstairs immediately and I leave it for the mailman to pick up, because it's an extra walk. Now, previously, I justified, you know, avoiding all of these extra trips in the name of efficiency. After all, I've got an unending amount of work to do, I mean who doesn't. But I also realized that getting up and taking these short little two minute walks allows me to stretch my legs a little bit, refresh my eyes after staring at the computer screen for a couple of hours. What I used to view as a waste of time, actually has turned into a way for me to be more productive by getting those small little refresh periods, and I'm more engaged when I sit back down. So instead of it being a waste of time, I'm actually, I'm actually able to do more. You know, and I wish I could say these changes have guaranteed me to hit my goal every day, but yeah, I've had a few nights that I've missed it entirely, and I've had some nights where I've decided that I should take a few laps around the dining room table, because I am so close to hitting that goal that I can't possibly go to bed knowing that I was so close and didn't put in that little bit of effort to make it. When it becomes easy, then I'll go ahead and bump that goal up. I'd like to say I’d bump it up by 500 steps each time, but I know me, I'll probably have to start with a much smaller 250.
And in doing that, I'm doing something very similar to the advice that I give people on the Sinclair Method, especially people who are trying to work their way into that first alcohol free day. Small, steady changes. If you can wait 15 extra minutes before you take your medication, which also then means you're waiting 15 minutes longer before that first drink of the day, then do it until it feels normal and build on it. And if 15 is too much for you, that's fine. Just five minutes, you know, you can wait five minutes, right? You know, if you've ever had to push yourself through even a week of cravings, one day at a time, what's five minutes? You can do this. You know, plus those five minutes are a delay, not a denial. So if you keep adding those small increments, pretty soon you find that now you're backing things up an hour or two hours over the course of several weeks. And pretty soon you're gonna find yourself saying “You know what, it's nine o'clock and I haven't taken my medication yet. Do I really want to now?” And so sometimes people, by making the small changes in the action phase, they end up making huge changes, kind of taken it from the side. So once we've put the work in, once we've gone through the action, and we've really managed to change our behavior, that's when we slide into the Maintenance stage.
So the Maintenance stage is what many people on the Sinclair Method will call extinction. Basically, if you continue to drink alcohol, you follow the protocol and that's what keeps you from relearning addiction to alcohol, and ensuring that the alcohol equals reward connection stays weak and broken. You still need to apply some effort when you're in the Maintenance stage, but it's generally not nearly as difficult. At this point, people tend to see the value in all of the changes that they've made, and they just know they don't ever want to go back. You know, but like every other behavior change stage, it can be normal to have to go back to previous stages. Again, it's okay. It's normal. If you're on the Sinclair Method, you get to the Maintenance stage and you find things are getting tough again, it's not a failure, not for you not for the process, not for the medication. It just means you have to go back and apply a little more effort maybe to one specific area. Or maybe you're just a human who has stress and grief, and it makes that old pattern feel tempting. That's not a product of your addiction, it's because of your human condition. So please be gentle with yourself. If you are in the Maintenance stage of any behavior change, and you find that you've you've got to go back to Action or Preparation, it's okay. As long as you don't fall to the one big pitfall of the Maintenance stage and that's complacency.
Maintenance can breed complacency, because you've made it, you feel good about your achievement. It's easy to think that you don't have to continue applying effort. You know, you have to be vigilant. Watch for the signs that you're returning to old patterns. I'll just take the day off and be lazy, or I'm just going to drink without waiting the full hour this one time. It's a trap. You can send yourself spiraling so quickly back to where you were before all of your effort and hard work. I mean, after all, how many people out there have ever lost weight, bought new clothes, and then relax their eating habits again, only to put on all the weight that you lost and maybe even more six months later, a year later. If you find yourself cycling back and forth between Maintenance and Action, you know, you may actually benefit from revisiting the Preparation stage and zeroing in on those key pieces that keep tripping you up. It's okay. It's part of the behavior change process. I almost feel like we need an emoji created for Change is Hard. So any of my graphic designer audience members, I don't know how you’d put that one together, but it's definitely a theme that we repeat a lot, Change is Hard. It's okay if you have to cycle in and out of the process of the Stages of Change to meet your goals. There's no shame in it. There's, you know, you're still working, you're still moving forward trying to either, you know, enhance your recovery or to just make your life healthier and happier, to be the best version of you. I know that once I get to the Maintenance stage of my step goals, even though that feels like it's, still feels like it's almost impossible at this point, you know, intellectually anyway, I know that it's possible, and then I'll get there. But I know that it may be a challenge to stay there and to not get complacent. It can be difficult knowing that even by the end of 2022 I may not even be there yet. I've got a lot of work to do. So I understand how frustrating it is and how those days of falling short can make the entire process feel overwhelming. It can feel impossible, but that's okay. too, because change is not impossible. Change is possible.
So the last stage of the Stages of Change is Termination. Now a lot of people exclude Termination from health behavior models. And that's because most people, it's thought that you have to stay in Maintenance, especially where recovery is, you know, there are many people out there who will say you can be in recovery but never recovered. And thankfully with the Sinclair Method, we don't buy into that logic. Termination for the Sinclair Method, there is a valid use for that stage. And it happens when a person has practiced enough extinction sessions that they have so completely lost the desire to drink. They have no cravings, no urges, nothing. Now not everyone even wants to reach this. So if your goal is moderation, Termination doesn't even apply to you. But that's okay. Again, most major health behavior models say that you stay in the maintenance stage to keep yourself from relapsing. But with the Sinclair Method, if you're one of those people who has the goal of sobriety, and you reach the point where you're you just simply don't want to drink anymore. Well, you don't need to maintain the Sinclair Method, because the Sinclair Method, you only take it when you're actively drinking, planning on drinking so if you're going completely sober, congratulations. You have reached the Termination part of the behavior change cycle. It's amazing. And you don't have to worry about medication adherence or working on triggers. You just don't crave it at all. And, and that's, that's wonderful because you go from in recovery to recovered. And in that sense, while many will debate the semantics of Dr. Eskapa’s book, The Cure for Alcoholism, if you've gotten yourself to a point where you don't even need the Sinclair Method anymore because you're not drinking, then I don't know what else, how else would you call it but a cure?
So knowing where you're at in the Stages of Change can really have a huge impact on your goals. It can help you learn to be more patient with yourself and to extend yourself some compassion. Knowing what stage a loved one is in can help you to remember not to try to push them through too many stages at once. Instead, work to just gently nudge and support them through to the next stage. You know, again, some of the pitfalls in Precontemplation any overwhelming with information can backfire spectacularly. It's hard, but you've got to give up the urge to try to move yourself or someone else directly from Precontemplation to what the end goal of success looks like in Action and Maintenance. In Contemplation, it's easy to get overwhelmed, but you're better able to take in information. Just make sure you do it at your own pace. You know, because overwhelm can lead to decision paralysis and inaction and that gets counterproductive. In preparation, remember it's okay to dip your toes in the water and start slow. It's better than doing nothing at all. Set your goals here. Start developing your SMART goals. Yeah, that's a great time to really dig in and start setting those goals, but don't be afraid to keep returning to this stage as many times as you need to. Action. That's where your SMART goals really start to work. If you're trying to jump directly to the Action stage without the right tools, you're going to cause yourself some unnecessary frustration. And support systems, please don't try to push the people you care about directly into this stage because it's really difficult. And don't judge them if they shift back and forth between Action and others previous stages, because that's, it's a normal part of behavior change and personal growth.
Maintenance stage. If you've made it here, congratulations. You've put the right amount of planning and effort together. Don't get cocky. Don't get complacent. Remember the work that you've done and the effort that you've put in to improve life and meet your goal. That way you don't relearn whatever behavior it was that you fought so hard to change. And again, if you managed to make it to Termination stage, congratulations. You're a superstar. You are ready to take on the next challenge in your life, no matter what that might be, because you, so many people don't even make it to this stage. And that's like to the point where again, a lot of models omit that stage, that's how few people make it there. So if you make it there, give yourself a pat on the back because you're a rock star.
It's hard to believe, but we are almost out of time. Guys, you guys have been so wonderful as always. Thank you for spending the last hour with me. Do you guys feel more confident about keeping your promises to yourself now, whether they're New Year's resolutions or not? I hope so. If you came in late, or if you want to watch the stream again or share it, we'll have today's video up on our website, hopefully within a couple of hours and as soon as we're able to, we'll get those transcripts and closed captioning added as well. You can find every previous episode on our website, on YouTube, Vimeo, Anchor and Spotify.
Next week, I'm really excited. We're going to be joined by Mary Reid. Mary is the Executive director of Moderation Management and we're going to talk about Dry January, and we're going to talk about some of the benefits of combining Moderation Management with the Sinclair Method. So start thinking about any questions you've got now, whether they're about the Sinclair Method, whether they're about Moderation Management, whether they're about Dry January. We hope you'll all tune in next week, because we're really excited to have Mary on the show with us.
If you found value in this broadcast, we hope you'll hit the donate button in our profile, head to our website, make a donation at cthreefoundation.org/donate or follow and subscribe. We love our subscribers. I've seen some of you that have at times hosted our channel. We love all of this. This is so helpful for us to get the message out. If you'd like to suggest a guest or a topic for a future broadcast, we've got a link to a Google forum that's on our main Schedule page of our website. We're starting to get February filled in for our guests, so we'd love to hear what your suggestions are. If you're on the Sinclair Method, you're looking for more peer support or you just want to join the C Three Foundation community, we've got you covered with groups on Facebook, Discord, the Option Save Lives forum. And that's it for today and for the year. Have a wonderful weekend. Please be gentle with yourself and with others. I'm going to see you again right next week, here on Twitch at noon Eastern. Happy New Year everyone. Happy – mudforce, I'm not even going to try to say that, but Happy New Year in Welsh. Happy New Year to everyone. I'm gonna go to our users in chat here and I'm going to call you all out. So, Happy New Year mudforce and Nat. By the way, for those of you who don’t know, our closed captioning and transcripts could not be done, they are 100% thanks to these two amazing volunteers who do this every week for us, and for you, to be able to use, to make our videos
that much more accessible. Happy New Year, Annette and Commanderroute and Letitia and khorne and lostmanytacos. Happy New Year to all of you. We appreciate you being here. So until next week, bye.
Voiceover: You've been watching the Options Save Lives weekly live stream hosted by Executive Director Jenny Williamson, and produced by the C Three Foundation with the support of R Street Institute and other generous supporters. For more information about the C Three Foundation or the Sinclair Method, visit our website at cthreefoundation.org. If you have a question you want answered live on air, to make guest suggestions, or to support the show, let us know. You can reach us through our website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on Discord. Join us each week as we continue to discuss more ways to help you build a better relationship with alcohol, or to eliminate it completely. Because recovery from alcohol use disorder is not a one size fits all process. Options are available and Options Save Lives.