February 2014, I got the opportunity to begin my counseling career as an IO (Intensive Outpatient) Therapist. I was scared out of my mind. Yes, I got my degree in community counseling and all I knew is that I wanted to help people but I had never decided on a specific discipline but nothing about addiction counseling remotely intrigued me. However, 2 years of addiction counseling, I learned more about myself and honestly how I saw people who were and are dealing with the DISEASE of addiction.
After countless days of group and individual sessions, I truly believe that if my clients could stop the endless cycle of relapse, they would, even if just for the sake of getting people out of their business. I had clients who I felt relapsed because they felt that they didn’t have control of any other part of their life and drinking or smoking was their last grip of what they felt were their control and they were going to be damned that someone was going to tell them what to do with their body. Other clients, real life was too hard to deal with. There’s a saying in the recovery world, “Living Life on Life’s Terms.” Seems easy right? For some of those who suffer from addiction, life on life’s terms mean looking at the self-harm that they did to themselves, the trail of broken promises that they made to their loved ones, and facing the trauma that may have led them to their addiction. Reality may be unbearable to the point that the only way to cope is to use drugs and alcohol as their rose-colored glasses.
Like I said, I learned as much from my clients as I hope that they learned from me. No matter what the addiction may be or any life struggles for that matter, is CHANGE. What are you willing to do to change your current situation? You can’t wait for the right circumstances, because they will never come. I’ve heard people say, I will say misinformed and maybe never have had any serious encounters with those with an addiction that these people are lazy and they could stop anytime they want to. I always use myself as an example. I am emotional eater. If I feel anxious or depressed, I find any type of food to drown out those feelings. My favorite food by far is a Snickers bar. If someone told me that when I wanted to cope with my stressors that I could no longer have a Snickers and that they will be a monetary and maybe a jail sentence behind having a Snickers bar, that would be a problem for me. I pose this question, if someone told you that you could no longer could cope with your stressors as you had been doing and what you felt was working, how would that make you feel? I am not saying that drowning yourself in case of beer is the way to go but I want you to understand that sometimes people are doing the best that they can at the time. As a counselor, I tried never to judge and I would share my struggles with stressors and how I handled them, sometimes healthy and sometimes unhealthy. I let them know that the important thing is to never give up but I also had to learn to confront some of their behaviors that they were using to excuse their relapses.
A final lesson I learned was the importance of my support system and how things could have been so different for me. I would listen to the stories of my clients and some of their experiences mimicked mines. I had trauma in my life and it could led me to leave a wrecking path of destruction. I will forever grateful for the people God has placed in my life, those for a season and those for a lifetime. There was a portion of the recovery work where the clients had to discuss the importance of having a support system and we even had Family Day where the clients were strongly encouraged to bring a close friend or family member so that they can see their progress and learn more about the addiction process. Majority of them didn’t bring anybody. They would say that they didn’t trust people or that people had let them down and all they needed were themselves. Nobody gets to be where they are without someone, giving them an encouraging word, helping them network, or giving them a ride to the corner store. I did my best to keep my word, to not make promises to them that I couldn’t keep and to be as genuine as I could be to them.
This has been on my mind to write for a while. I have so much respect for anyone who’s struggling with a disease or disorder and makes a conscious choice every day to get help. Even if you don’t understand the reason why you are where you are today, I hope you take the time to learn things about yourself and be of help to someone else in the process.
One Day At a Time.
Until Next Time,