When I’m working as an addiction or spiritual counselor, clients want to climb the ladder of treatment. They want to move forward in their lives, which is understandable. We all want that direction.
And that idea of moving forward in treatment–that’s a therapeutic issue. I don’t mean that as an evasion. Our conception of what it means to move forward is a therapeutic issue.
How do I answer clients when they ask, “When is it time to go? When am I ready to leave?”
I used to say, “When you’re willing to stay.”
Considering Your Desire to Finish Treatment
My answer wasn’t cruel or a joke. I answered the question sincerely.
I wanted them to ponder:
- What happens when you come into treatment?
- What is this urge to move out?
- What do you think is at the end of this journey?
- Is there an illusion that when you leave treatment you get your freedom back?
Many expect leaving treatment restores the freedom to do, “What I want, when I want, and how I want.” That it’s some kind of promised land. That life is going to feel better–everything’s back to normal.
But your life wasn’t normal before you got there. You had an addiction problem and were suffering. And, in fact, when you leave treatment, life is more complex and difficult with less support.
So it’s actually harder.
I had a counselor that told me–when I was in treatment–the only thing that should change when you leave is your address. And what he meant by that was all of the tools and support that you’ve created while in addiction treatment–the kinds of choices you make and the things you have and haven’t been doing–all of that should stay the same.
Treatment is the First Step of Your Recovery
Don’t think because you move forward in treatment that it’s going to relieve your stress and anxiety. That, actually, may be what’s driving this idea of moving forward.
We all want to move forward in our lives, which is a complicated thing to even define. There’s a stress and anxiety that exists inside us all at times. If you’re active in addiction, stress and anxiety has a powerful pull. Yet we think, “If I can just get through these obstacles and move forward that will relieve the stress and anxiety.”
But actually what relieves the stress and anxiety is dealing with the underlying conditions of the emotions. What relieves the stress and anxiety in my interpersonal relationships is not getting away from them. Then I’m just guilty because I’m not around. Right?
I have to work through the emotions. And that’s what we’re actually doing in treatment. So it’s really a reframe. You’ve got to reframe your idea of moving forward. You’ve got to reframe your idea of stress and anxiety.
Another thing I used to say: that feeling you have–that restlessness and boredom–that’s your ism. That underlying cluster of feelings exists inside of you and drives you to use drugs and alcohol. So every time you have that feeling, it’s a signal for you something is up. That is the ism you have to address.
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