Imagine walking into a bakery for the first time. What influences your behavior? The answer is more complex than you may think. The total environment, the sounds, sights, and smells are all saying, try this. Other people in the store are saying, try this through their behavior (they are buying) and their conversations about what they like best (verifying the food is good).
But what else influences you? Your own physical state, whether you are hungry or have just eaten a big meal; your personal goals, whether you are trying to lose or gain weight; your beliefs and knowledge about food; your financial state, whether you have enough money to buy something; all play a part in determining your decisions and behavior.
Personal decisions about drug and alcohol use are also influenced by many things. Individuals are influenced by the information they have about drugs and alcohol; what people tell them about the effects they will experience; and the setting in which they receive that information. In addition, their mental, emotional and physical state, their personal needs and goals, their family background and culture, and the ease of availability and affordability of drugs and alcohol; all play a part in decision making. Your environment was filled with cues to use or not to use and you were probably not aware of many
The most powerful influence in your life when it comes to choices about drugs and alcohol are people: the people that you believe in, the people who are your role models, the people who have power in your life, the people you spend time with, and the people you admire. These are the people whom you are most likely to believe, emulate, and copy. Peers and “heroes” influence us. Not only do peers provide information, they influence our moment to moment choices and have a high degree of power over us because we want to belong and have their approval. Peers exert pressure on our choices when we are young and in school and as adults in university and the workplace.
People with power influence us. If your boss wants you to go for a drink and you really want that promotion, what are you going to do? People who lack confidence in the security of their position or lack job options may go for a drink. They’re being influenced by a force that they perceive as powerful — their boss — and by a personal goal that is important to them — success at work. Who we think is important and what we think is important (our goals) influence our choices about drugs and alcohol.
A positive example of people in power who have influence over choices is physicians. They can exert a powerful influence on our decision to quit using because we see them as knowledgeable and able to help us heal our illnesses.
The positive reasons to try using alcohol or drugs are common across most individuals (Beck, Wright, Newman, & Liese, 1993).
Place a check mark beside any of the following positive reasons for drinking or using drugs that are the same as your reasons.
It’s important to spend some time thinking about and making your list of your positive reasons for drinking or using drugs. There were some positive benefits or you would not have taken them. Once you identify your positive reasons for using, as you go through this book, you will learn other ways to achieve those positive outcomes.