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Deciding to change

Changing alcohol or drug use starts with thinking about it. You will need to decide what you want to do.

The stages most people go through before making a change

  1. Not wanting to change
  2. Thinking about change
  3. Deciding to make a change
  4. Planning for change

Sometimes it can take a while to get to a place where you are ready to change.

How you might feel about change

You may have lots of different feelings and thoughts about making a change.

You may think that:

  • change will make you uncomfortable
  • change is important now
  • you are not ready to change
  • you might not be able to change
  • there are things you like about using alcohol or drugs, that sometimes cause problems

If you don't feel ready to change

It can take time to change your behaviour. If you don't think you're ready now, you may be ready at some stage. 

Some reasons you may find it hard to decide to change could be:

  • thinking you cannot do it
  • feeling there is no point in changing now, because you have used alcohol or drugs for a long time
  • it's too hard to imagine life without alcohol or drugs - you feel you need it to relax and unwind
  • you will change, but right now doesn't feel like the right time

If it’s important to change, you can overcome these. 

It might be better not to wait

It’s never too late to change, but the sooner you make a change, the better. The longer you continue, the harder it may become.

Problems often get worse, not better.

These include:

  • physical and mental health problems
  • relationship difficulties
  • effects on your finances or career

How to know if you need to change

You may have already decided you need to make a change.

Think about the advantages and disadvantages of making a change and not making a change

Think about what:

  • you regret most about drinking or taking drugs
  • is good about carrying on drinking or taking drugs the way you are
  • might get better if you changed
  • are the bad things about changing
  • is bad about leaving things as they are

It might be helpful to write down the pros and cons of making a change and not making a change.

Print our Decisional Balance Worksheet (PDF 1 page 59kb) to help you do this.

Prepare to change

Things you can do to help you prepare

  • Understand the reasons you're drinking or taking drugs in the way you do.
  • Think about the reasons you have not changed and see if you can work on it.
  • Think about the benefits of changing, for example, your health, self-esteem, relationships or career.
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol or drugs you take, even if it is only a small amount.

page last reviewed: 08/11/2019
next review due: 08/11/2022