“Getting sober was one of the three pivotal events in my life, along with becoming an actor and having a child. Of the three, finding my sobriety was the hardest thing.” ~ Gary Oldham
For so many, the road to sobriety is a long and peculiar road. While the challenges of becoming sober are difficult; the greatest obstacle that so many addicts face is maintaining sobriety. In the process of becoming sober, people frequently report having an abundance of support from friends, family, clinicians, counselors, and treatment centers. However, following the process of reaching sobriety; many have reported having feelings of isolation and abandonment.
SUPPORT BEYOND THE TREATMENT CENTER
“I have other obligations now – the show, my family, my life… though I know that without my sobriety I wouldn’t have any of those things.” ~ Rob Lowe
As a clinician, I have discovered that there are no absolutes in the life of the addict. While each addict may be struggling with a similar addictive issue; the psychological path that lead the addict to the addictive issue may vary drastically. I have also found that the addict may, or may not, find the right kind of support from family members, friends, or colleagues. As clinicians, it is our role to help the addict to distinguish the right kind of support from the wrong type.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), describes the family (and peers) as having “… a central role to play in the treatment of any health problem, including substance or (alcohol) abuse.” (NCBI, 2004, Online)
Everyone knows that those who are closest to us can prove a help or a hinderance. It is critically important that the addict surrounds him or herself with those that will ultimately prove supportive. For so many addicts, the struggle to maintain one’s sobriety begins the moment that they leave the treatment center. In the minds of the addict’s family and friends, the treatment center has cured the addict, thus they are capable of returning to “life as normal.”
TREATING THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE INDIVIDUAL
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ~ Nelson Mandela
An addict’s greatest adversary is neither his enemy nor an opponent, but rather they themselves. It is within the mind of the individual that the real battle to maintain sobriety is fought. Our personal minds are inescapable. We are incapable of denying or avoiding the truths that lie within our own personal psyche.
The good news is, we are capable of bringing peace and solace to our personal lives. While the mind is an inescapable part of our humanity; the ability to forgive, move forward
and forget is within our personal grasp. The human species is hardwired to forgive. We must not only reach out to offer forgiveness unto others, but also to forgive our own person for the mistakes and errors made within this life.
It is imperative that we do not link all addictive issues to one’s mistakes or past histories. Research has shown that for many addicts there is a predisposition. Thus, the addiction is neither an indicator of past histories nor wrongs that we are embracing Unfortunately, the addictive habit may be directly linked to a chemical imbalance and/or a psychological disorder. In such cases, the best remedy maybe long-term or short-term medical and/or psychological treatment. Most importantly, not all issues of the mind require forgiveness.
As a clinician, I have no qualms in saying that
there is no absolute in the field of addiction. For each person arrives to the scene with varied stories, histories, and biological and psychological makeups. Addiction is an extremely complex disease that encompasses the whole person. As clinicians, we must begin thinking about the entirety of the personality, rather than the microscopic perspective of the individual.
My argument is, sobriety will occur the moment that we recognize the catalyst for the addictive habit and treat it. We must begin working from all sides of the addictive habit.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters
compared to what lies within us.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Staying sober does not have to be a lifelong journey. Unlike many of my professional colleagues; I unequivocally believe that the addict is capable of making permanent and lasting change. If someone has an issue with an addiction, they should not be defined by the addiction; no more than someone with a cancer should be labeled a cancer. The following are suggestions for helping someone reach permanent sobriety:
- Always maintain an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance and love.
- Encourage the individual struggling with an addiction to find a safe place.
- As an intimate player in the life of those recovering; be an advocate – publicly supporting the individual and helping them find resources for the continuation of care.
- Encourage the individual to establish an accountability partner.
- For many, the addiction has taken a toll upon the individual’s physical body; encourage the person to establish a healthy diet and fitness routine.
- Encourage the individual to maintain his or her sobriety by establishing active lines of communication.
- Be an active participant in the life of the individual struggling.
- Encourage the individual to continue with his or her psychological care by reading or listening to positive and constructive literature; having a daily routine of breathing, meditation, and journaling; and having regular interaction with a psychologist.
- Create an environment of honesty, integrity, reliability, dependability, and trust.
- Encourage the individual to establish a source of motivation. May you begin living beyond.
May you begin living beyond.
Author: Dr. Asa Don Brown, Ph.D., C.C.C., D.N.C.C.M., F.A.A.E.T.S.