Recovery–Getting to the Issues
Addiction recovery is not just about substance use. Since we are whole beings, our addictions affect all of us. We have emotional and mental symptoms in addiction, for example. Our behavior is affected, as is our spirituality, etc. Whatever makes us human is touched by our addictions. Getting to the issues that go beyond physical addiction is important to a thorough recovery effort.
Where to Start?
I usually go with the idea that we start with whatever has washed up on shore after your personal hurricane. When you hit bottom and life was as bad as you could stand, you probably looked around in bewilderment. What has happened? Did I survive the storm? What is left of my life? Some people find this moment to be exceedingly traumatic. Confronting the losses of an addicted life can be devastating when the veil of intoxication has been pulled away. In order to move forward, however, it’s important to take inventory and make action plans to recover losses in baby steps. Otherwise, there can just be more overload piled on top of an already seriously overwhelming mental and emotional load. That does nothing helpful. In fact, it is more likely to paralyze you rather than get you moving in recovery.
This is why I let my clients bring the underlying issues they want to start with to me. Sometimes I have to slow them down, of course, and help them focus on manageable steps, but at the beginning of recovery, I am cautious to not ‘dig’ for more. There is usually plenty to work on already. This is especially true of people who have experienced trauma apart from the natural difficulties of addiction. Many addicted women, for example, have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual violence–both as children and in their adult lives. It would be cruel to dig for these and confront women with them during detox and new abstinence. They are already struggling. However, many addicted women come to addiction treatment with these issues ‘already washed up on shore’. At that point, it is important to help them with their pain immediately and to go a little deeper than with people who have the history but no current symptoms.
Many people have co-occurring issues alongside addiction. It may be trauma as we discussed above, or a free-standing mental health disorder. In both cases, issues need to be addressed at the same time that addiction is. The pacing of treatment is best discussed with your care providers. They should be trained in dealing with dual diagnosis issues if you think there is something else you need treatment for, too. A dual diagnosis professional can help you map out a plan of care that meets your needs and at a pace that helps you the most.
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