Ask Paul at the RSIC: Spring perfect time to get help for substance abuse |

Ask Paul at the RSIC: Spring perfect time to get help for substance abuse

Paul Snyder | Special to First Nation's Focus
Spring is a time for a fresh start on life.
Photo: Getty Images

RENO, Nev. — This is a glorious time of year with flowers, trees, and grass springing back to life. Crisp, clear mornings greet us as we begin our day. Each day is a refreshing gift and an opportunity to make a world that our ancestors, our children and the Creator would be proud of.

“The Red Road to Wellbriety” teaches us about the cycle of seasons — spring, summer, fall and winter. Springtime represents new beginnings and new possibilities. The Elders teach us the first stage of change comes from within. This means that all positive and lasting change begins on the inside of the person and works its way out.

This is the time for a new you. Maybe you’ve been putting off starting a new workout regimen, thinking about volunteering at your child’s school, enrolling in school yourself, or deciding to get help for a substance use disorder. Today can be your special day.

When people tell me they want to change their substance use behavior, I consider their personal motivation by gauging where they are on a spectrum of change.

There are 6 stages of change on this spectrum. If you want to change a behavior, take an honest look at which of the six stages you reside. Keep in mind this could be substance use or behaviors you want to change.

Stage 1) Precontemplation: In the first stage, the person does not care to change and does not think he has a problem. In this stage, the person needs to ask himself or herself what it will take to recognize the behavior is bad for him or her.

Stage 2) Contemplation: In this stage, the person recognizes there really may be a problem. For example, the person sees that not every time she drinks alcohol something really bad happens. However, every time something really bad happens to her, alcohol is involved. Hmmm, it makes the person wonder if she should cut back.

Stage 3) Preparation: The person is preparing to change. He may be checking out a gym’s free membership if he wants to lose weight or looking up AA meeting locations if he’s considering slowing down drinking alcohol. The person isn’t really engaged in the change, but he’s preparing for their change.

Stage 4) Action: The person is engaged in her behavior change, and congratulations are due! She needs to keep up the momentum and have this new behavior become a habit.

Stage 5) Maintenance: This is the stage where the new behavior is a lifestyle. The idea here is to keep your motivation for your behavior fresh and fun. You don’t want to give up the old behavior without enjoying the benefits of your new behavior.

Stage 6) Relapse: This change is one that people don’t like to talk about. Take it easy, and be gentle with yourself. A relapse is a setback, but it can also be a strong incentive to avoid going back to the previous behavior or substance use.

For example, a person may feel so bad and remorseful from relapsing that the feeling of letting himself down can be motivation to avoid temptation in the future. This does not excuse relapse. If it is a learning experience, it can be a valuable experience.

On the other hand if the relapse is an excuse to go back to drinking, using substances, or continuing a bad behavior, the person really just had a tolerance break. Also, if a person relapses, they don’t necessarily go back to Stage 1.

The experiences and sobriety or new behavior can be picked right back up in the stage they were in before the relapse. For example if a person has been sober for 6 months and doing well, then relapses, they can go back to the stage of change they were in previously when they stop drinking.

The person does not lose all of the wisdom they have acquired in sobriety because they have relapsed. Keep in mind, relapse is not necessary, but if it does happen, the person’s healthy lifestyle can continue.

Why not look for excuses to live healthy and happy this spring? Today can be the day your new life starts. Figure out a behavior that may not be serving you and decide where you are on the stages of change.

If you would like some tips or help to move forward and advance through the stages of change, please call me; our Behavioral Health Department can help you move toward your new life today.

“Ask Paul” is a health column by Paul Snyder, MA, LADC-S, a Substance Use Counselor at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center. It publishes each month in The Camp News, the monthly newsletter for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony community. Have a question for Paul? Email him at


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