By: Marilyn L Davis
“I found the prospect daunting, but somehow comforting, too, because the counselors insisted it could be done, and, after all, many of them were recovering alcoholics themselves.” ― Craig Ferguson,
Labels Can Be Hurtful, Embarrassing, or a Beginning
Recently someone referred to you as a drug addict, alcoholic, or both. The judicial system may refer to you as a criminal because of your actions. Agencies that govern your contact with your children don’t believe you are a fit parent. Your family has multiple names for you, all of them depressing.
To address your present situation, you are about to enter treatment, so there is one more label for you to consider adding: participant. Calling yourself a participant in treatment improves your mindset about the process, and is often the beginning of healing.
How Will You Participate?
To participate is to partake, share, cooperate, and engage with others.
These are the attitudes and actions that providers of treatment hope you will show, but some people are ambivalent about changing; which are you? Entering treatment for a substance abuse problem is scary. But, if you’re like me, you’ve overcome fear to use.
That courage is within us, regardless of how we misused it in our addictions. Use your courage to explore treatment.
The Polarity of Participation
Usually, people are on one side or the other when it comes to receiving help and participating. Which describes you?
- I Do Want to Participate and Change
For some of you, the end of your use and the beginning of treatment prompt relief, excitement, and some fear, either about failure and/or about success.
That is to be expected; we are all fearful of both failure and success.
- I Don’t Want to Cooperate and I’m Angry that I Have Been Put in Treatment
Others of you are fearful and angry about being in treatment, especially if an employer, family or the judicial system forced the issue of treatment. These feelings and attitudes are very commonplace as well.
Process, Participate and See Results
Take the time to process your feelings with a counselor, facilitator, peer, or other participants and see if there’s not something in your life that you think would be improved by your participation in treatment.
Most people would willingly give up strawberries if they caused a rash, yet will continue using drugs and alcohol even when the consequences are more severe than a rash.
Start with Looking at the Problem
For some of you, postponing your participation in this process is your belief that you do not have a problem; that someone or some agency made a huge mistake in making you go to treatment.
A simple question to ask is, “Do I drink”? If yes, then, in theory, you could have a problem. “Do I use drugs”? Again, because you use them, you could have a problem.
It is rather like that person with an allergy to strawberries or peanuts. As long as they do not eat these foods, they have no problem. However, eat just a little, and they react negatively, breaking out in rashes, hives, difficulty breathing, or going into shock.
Drinking and using drugs, even a little, can prompt an addicted person to react negatively, make poor judgments leading to actions that get negative consequences. Solution – do not drink or use drugs.
As a person in long-term recovery with 29 years, I understand the pull of addiction and the desire to use or your refusal to or fear in, simply putting down the substances you use, in the same way, that you would stop eating foods that are bad for you, like the strawberries or peanuts.
The pull and the desire are not just physical; they come from emotions, perceptions, and triggers. While many of us didn’t talk about what we thought and felt in our addiction, it’s necessary to let counselors, peers, and others know how we’re honestly feeling.
I Also Understand the Rewards
Treatment will offer you the tools for this exploration of self, and give you an opportunity to live a better life.However, treatment cannot do it alone. You have to cooperate and be factual about yourself.
It would be foolish to go to a doctor and give them false or misleading information, stating that the problem is your arm if the problem was your leg.
Yet, people will refer to their families, their jobs, or their spouses as the problem, when in fact the problem is their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
As you are in treatment, you really have nothing to lose by exploring aspects about yourself that keep you from living a meaningful life. Participating in recovery activities will give you this opportunity to explore.
After all, It is not going to harm you to learn about yourself.
It may embarrass you, offend you, or cause you to feel defensive and uncomfortable, and no one likes to feel vulnerable or have unhealthy aspects of themselves publicly revealed, yet this exposure can help you name the aspects of yourself that need changing to recover.
Sabotaging Our Lives is Part of Addiction
Continuing to act, think or feel in an old manner means we’ll get the same old results.Walking away from an opportunity to change is self-sabotage.
Learning to identify your own self-defeating and self-sabotaging behaviors, including your use, and making a decision to keep acting the same way or to change is the decision you have to make in treatment.
- Some of you may walk away; decide you do not have a problem, do not need help, or that this method of help is not going to be beneficial to you.
- Some of you cannot legally walk away without having more severe consequences of this action. Yet, you will resist or create excuses for non-participation in the process.
Most people make these choices to not fully take part or walk away from treatment without ever examining themselves, or making the effort to comply with the helpful directions offered.
We have choices in our recovery that we never had in our use.
Predictable Outcomes of Participation
Think about this logically. If you fully cooperate, do what is necessary to participate – learn the language, look at yourself, make changes, and stop using, you will follow treatment directions and suggestions.
If you do not choose to take advantage of this opportunity, you are certainly setting yourself up to relapse. While no one can honestly say that another person will relapse, there are predictable red flag warnings for all of us that are addicted, and not cooperating with recovery directions is one.
Encouragement and Validation for Cooperation
I’ve been in recovery for over twenty-nine years, starting in a treatment facility, too.
I hope this is encouraging and motivates you to take this opportunity to change and experience different and better outcomes.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart