What does it really mean to confront your innermost issues in alcoholism or addiction treatment and “get real with yourself?”
How does a person actually go about doing this?
Well for starters, I would suggest that before a struggling alcoholic or drug addict can really get to the bottom of their core issues, they first need to establish a baseline of sobriety. So the key in doing that, in my experience, is to first go to an inpatient treatment center.
It should also be noted that addiction is a primary disease, and that it exists by itself, for itself, without having to depend on a person’s issues.
In other words, you may blame your addiction on the fact that you suffered abuse as a child. However, it should be noted that the addiction could exist and actually have nothing to do with the abuse. Furthermore, there are people who have different issues, or have far less issues than you might have, and those people might still become addicts or alcoholics.
In other words, the issues and the drama and the problems of our past do not necessarily have anything to do with our addiction, and those things did not necessarily cause our addiction.
This is an important distinction because at one point in history they believed that alcoholism and drug addiction were always a response to some sort of issue, and that if we could solve the side issue then the addiction would magically go away. We know today that this is false, and that the addiction is primary, and that the addiction doesn’t really depend upon our issues or drama. The addiction just exists, and it can exist for no apparent reason, and therefore we have to deal with it as best we can.
Having said that the addiction does not depend upon side issues, it should also be noted that everyone has side issues anyway! Which is another way of saying that we all have at least some fear, resentment, self pity, anger, fear, shame, or guilt in our lives. There is no human being on the planet who does not have at least some of that stuff going on inside of themselves.
So we have established 2 things: That addiction does not depend on our issues, but that everyone does, in fact, have some side issues.
Now the third thing to realize is that, while living in addiction recovery, everyone should be actively working on their side issues.
A few reasons. One, you want to strive for self improvement in general, because that is one way that you avoid complacency and stay active in your recovery journey. Striving for self improvement is a very important concept. One of the ways that we do this is by identifying our blocks, our hang ups, and our negative emotions and then we figure out how to overcome those limitations.
Two, some of our side issues can, in fact, become triggers for a possible relapse. For example, let’s say that you did experience abuse as a child, and you may not even realize that you have a major resentment over this abuse. At some point, you could become triggered regarding that abuse issue, or because of the person that was involved with that abuse, and this resentment could cause you to want to medicate and relapse. So while not every side issue or bit of drama in your life may trigger you to want to relapse, some of them certainly could. As we do not necessarily know in advance what is going to trigger us, it is best to try to tackle all of these potential sources.
You may note that if you thoroughly work through the 12 steps of AA or NA, it very much attempts to uncover these sorts of issues from our past and get us to deal with it in a fairly direct way.
Sometimes this method of step work will be enough to protect us from relapse, but sometimes it may not be enough. Some people work the steps more thoroughly than others, and some people have a better sponsor than others, and so the steps may or may not allow you to thoroughly work through the issues that you need to deal with.
Having said that, I would also make a recommendation to anyone in addiction recovery that they go to therapy or counseling.
As mentioned previously, the struggling addict needs to establish a baseline at the start of their journey. Do this by getting on the phone and calling an inpatient rehab center. Go to rehab. Go to a 28 day program.
You need to do this for several reasons. First and foremost is the safety that it provides during the physical detoxification process. Second of all is the safe environment that it puts you in so that you are not tempted to relapse during those first tenuous 28 days.
But also, by going to an inpatient treatment center, you will be automatically set up with some sort of aftercare plan. Generally a rehab will set you up with some sort of IOP after inpatient treatment, which will include having a therapist or a counselor that will also do one on one therapy with you.
In my experience, and in my opinion, this is critical. A therapist can give you the kind of objective advice that you need to not only succeed in sobriety, but also to thrive and to find your best life in recovery.
Which is another way of saying that you would benefit a great deal from having a therapist in early recovery from addiction. Whatever your core issues are, having a therapist will allow you to tackle those issues and work through them as best you can. Without a therapist, you may not even know about the issues at all, or realize that they are potential triggers for you.
Now in addition to having and using a therapist in early recovery, I would also recommend that you start very early in recovery by exploring various coping strategies.
So everyone, in life, is going to have times of stress. Everyone is going to get “triggered” in various ways throughout their life, and throughout their recovery. This is just part of being alive.
Working with a therapist and working a recovery program can allow us to avoid some of those triggers, and perhaps even most of those triggers situations.
But not all of those potential triggers can be avoided. We are all, at one point or another, going to face some stressful trials in our life.
Therefore we need to have ways to deal with that stress and anxiety.
Now here is a key point: The things that work for me may not work so well for you. I tend to jog long distances when I am stressed or triggered. Not everyone is an avid jogger, nor would that solution work for everyone.
So we need options. Start asking people in recovery how they deal with triggers and urges. Start gathering ideas and then start testing them out for yourself. This has to be a journey of self discovery, to find out what works best for you.
The key is to be open to advice and to actually put the ideas into action. This is the best way to find your own strategy for dealing with stress and anxiety. Good luck!