September 7, 2016 Felicia Durling

Contrary Action

Contrary ActionContrary action is a legal term relating to opposition and is often misunderstood, similar to the way people misinterpret the word recovery. Many people fall under the false belief that simply putting down the substances is the end of substance addiction. As the authors of The Big Book so eloquently put it, “Not drinking is not enough”.  At one time, a drink or a drug was the magic solution to many problems. To much dismay, it was soon discovered that drinking and using were hardly effective in solving any problem. Likewise, simply not drinking and using is not sufficient enough a solution to the problem.


Addiction is multifaceted. So too must recovery be. If it were simply a matter of not drinking or using, millions more people would maintain long term recovery in their lifetimes. Addiction is a matter of thinking, doing, feeling, believing, and acting. For each of these areas, patterns and behaviors have been developed over time, deeply ingrained to the point of automation. Contrary action helps to stop the process and reevaluate. Contrary action is the opportunity to think and do differently.

Nothing changes if nothing changes, it is often said in recovery. It is also commonly said that the only thing that has to change is everything. Thankfully, recovery operates on the basis of spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection. It is unlikely that alcoholism and addiction happened in one day, so recovery is not expected to be an immediate cure. Contrary action is a series of beliefs in motion, demonstrating that there is an ability to change.

How to take contrary action

Contrary action will look different to everyone. Is there an impulse to sabotage? Choose a different behavior. Do feelings of loneliness inspire isolation or harmful decisions like sexual promiscuity? Choose to reach out to peers. Plan coffee dates and friendly gatherings. Are there certain triggering locations? If there is no need to go, don’t go.

Trivial at first, contrary action may seem counter-intuitive and uncomfortable. Having to pause and think about how beneficial a choice is going to be is not something regularly practiced in active using unless it has to do with substances! Recovery is the choice we make to choose ourselves.


We hope you start by choosing The Center for Life Change in Temecula. Our intensive outpatient programs will support you in learning how to make choices again and live a different life. For more information call (951) 775-4000

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