Self-efficacy has been defined by the American Psychological Association as “an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviours necessary to produce specific performance attainments.”
When tackling addiction, it is not just the addiction itself that needs tackling. There are instilled beliefs, thought patterns, habits, and behaviours that also need tackling in order to get through recovery. An example of something that may need to be tackled is self-efficacy in addiction recovery – more specifically, the lack of it.
Basically, if you have high levels of self-efficacy, you have the self-belief that you can achieve set goals, see obstacles as mere bumps in the road, and setting yourself more goals that you believe you can achieve. Mistakes aren’t failures to those with high self-efficacy. They are learning curves, lessons in what they need to do next to achieve their goals.
Then those with low self-efficacy in addiction recovery are doubtful of their ability to achieve something. So much they may procrastinate, put the work off, see obstacles as failures, and see failures as a fault in themselves as a person. You can see from this why it is important to explore and build upon self-efficacy on the road to recovery from addiction.
Self-efficacy is how one view themselves, makes a judgement about themselves and their ability to perform and achieve something. Self-control is the ability to hinder or stop an impulse reward for something in order to achieve an end goal.
When talking about addiction, the two are inevitably linked. Self-efficacy makes the person believe they can achieve something, which is reinforced by their ability to execute self-control. This then heightens one’s self-efficacy.
Although inevitably intertwined, they are not the same thing, nor is one needed for the other. Self-efficacy is the belief to realise a goal, whereas motivation is the want and desire to achieve something. So, for example, you may be set a task in work you have no desire or motivation to undertake.
However, you have the self-efficacy to know you can achieve the task. But obviously, it is true to say that those with high self-efficacy undoubtedly have higher levels of motivation – I mean, if you doubted your ability to achieve something, how could you have a high level of motivation?
Studies found that it isn’t as simple as this person has high self-efficacy: this person has low self-efficacy.’ It revolves around that person developing a strong connection in one on one therapy and being in a place where they believe they are capable of recovery.
Those with high levels of self-efficacy in addiction recovery have the skills and resources to successfully deny and resist their cravings when faced with drink or drug temptations. These people also view relapses or ‘slips’ as a minor obstacle, a setback to control, while those with low self-efficacy have a higher chance of slipping into a full relapse.
Low self-esteem causes people to greatly underestimate their potential and ability. A history of failures may also have set a psychological precedent that they are set out for failure in recovery. Anxiety also plays a part, where the goal may cause them stress and so they mistake that for the belief that they will not succeed.
According to research undertaken at Stanford University, there are said to be 4 sources of self-efficacy:
There are several different obstacles that can get in the way of your recovery and developing your self-efficacy in addiction recovery. Here are some of the most common obstacles in recovery from addiction:
It’s normal and easy for bouts of lack of motivation to come about, there will be times where it feels harder than others. Maintaining strong relationships, attendance to therapy and group meetings will all play a part in keeping this motivation.
Developing new mental tools in budgeting and a new responsibility towards money will increase self-efficacy as you will be better equipped to deal with matters you may not have once had any knowledge about or how to handle.
It’s important to be honest about your feelings; bottling them up is one aspect of behaviour which will have to change in order to make progress mentally.
You may not always feel like going to that meeting or speaking up when it’s your turn to share, but when you continue to do things despite, how you feel about them, you’ll develop the discipline you need to stay committed to your recovery regardless of the season of life you’re in.
This is the false and dangerous thinking you’ve done enough and are in a sense recovered. However, recovery is an ongoing work. It may get easier’ in a sense, but the work has to keep going.
Being sober means constant self-awareness; analysing your behaviours and actions and asking how you can improve. But it’s also about congratulating yourself for what you are already doing.
Lack of communication with peers and those you feel connected to will set you on the path to relapse. It’s understandable that not every day you’ll feel like attending a meeting or speaking about your feelings.
This is usually because the substance they are trying to abstain from is the one they relied on to ease any social anxiety, or to socialise full stop. This sometimes means starting from square one, learning how to have conversations sober, in an alcohol-free environment.
This may feel somewhat exposing, there’s no alcohol or drugs to fall back on and gain that extra confidence, but once mastered this can be a great way to build self-efficacy.
Commitment isn’t just saying ‘I’m not going to drink.’ It means walking away from certain friends and habits – usually, the ones that led you to alcohol abuse and substances misuse. It’s about walking away from certain environments, places, thought processes, beliefs. They are all intertwined.
Overcome obstacles in recovery – and congratulate yourself for doing so. It is important to understand that there will be many obstacles, but you need to acknowledge this so that you know you have the ability to overcome them. Once you do overcome them, your self-efficacy will no doubt increase.
Maintain relationships with peers in recovery – your peers will have walked in your shoes in some way, even if only a few steps. They are the ones you can relate to and who relate to you.
You will see them overcome obstacles and realise their goals in sobriety and in turn this will motivate you, increasing self-efficacy. Peers provide support, encouragement and a listening ear.
Prioritising your emotional and psychological wellness – taking care of your mind is paramount; it’s the driving force of your recovery, the thing that is going to get you through it.
This can be a hobby such as painting, or exercise, reading. This also ties in with the point above: maintaining a relationship with your peers is essential for emotional and psychological wellness. This is vital to building self-efficacy.