By: Marilyn L. Davis
Addict: A Label that Started my Healing
I sincerely hope that when you enter treatment, you make the most of the opportunities and solutions to help you change and that you begin to embrace this journey called recovery. For me, that began with saying, “I am a recovering addict.”
A New Label: Participant
Recently someone referred to you as a drug addict, alcoholic, or both. The judicial system may label you as a criminal because of your actions. There may be negative evaluations of your parenting by agencies that govern your contact with your children.
To address your present situation, you are about to enter treatment or an Accountability Court program or start going to recovery support meetings, so there is one more label for you to consider adding: participant.
To participate is to partake, share, cooperate, and engage with others.
These are the attitudes and actions that providers of treatment hope you will exhibit, but some people are ambivalent about changing; which are you?
Two Different Attitudes and Outcomes
Some of you do want to cooperate, participate and change. For some of you, the end of your use and the beginning of treatment prompt relief, excitement, and fear. Fears about failure and success.
That is normal; we are all fearful of both failure and success. Maintaining your positive attitude will help you achieve the best outcome: long-term recovery.
Some of you do not want to cooperate, and you are angry that you are in treatment or an Accountability Court.
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.
Use Your Resources – Other Addicts
What about your employment, your family situations, or your financial picture; could any of these areas of your life benefit from not using?
Focus on an aspect that you know can be improved by getting into recovery; it’s a beginning and will help you see how positively participating can change your life.
Question Why You Don’t Cooperate
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 getting you into treatment.
For some of you, admitting to a problem is the problem.
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.
Hindering Your Participation
What if a particular food caused you to break out in hives, have difficulty breathing, or caused a rash? Would you stop eating those foods? It is rather like someone 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.
Do not drink or use drugs sounds simple. Yet, for the alcoholic or drug addict, it is never that easy, simple, or straightforward.
I Understand the Pull of Addiction
As a person in long-term recovery with over 30 years, I understand the pull of addiction and the desire to use. I also appreciate your refusal to or fear in merely putting down the substances you use in the same manner, that you would stop eating foods that are bad for you, like strawberries or peanuts.
Addiction would have us use at the slightest uncomfortable feeling, and we’re going to have them in treatment. Many of our emotions have been numbed in our use, and they will pop up at unexpected times in our early recovery.
Cooperate and Be Factual
Treatment will provide you with the tools to explore yourself and allow you to live a better life. But treatment cannot make you well. 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.
People often refer to their families, their jobs, or their spouses as the problem, when in fact the problem is their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
Cooperate and Participate!
Since you are in treatment or an Accountability Court program, you 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.
When you learn something that repeatedly causes you to get adverse outcomes, you can change that to experience better results.
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 identify the characteristics of yourself that need changing to recover.
Learn to Label Your Self-Defeating Behaviors
“Break your bad labels instead of living in them.” ―
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.
Walking away from an opportunity to change is self-defeating and self-sabotaging. Some of you may walk away, decide you do not have a problem, do not need help, or that this method of assistance will not 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 participate or walk away from treatment without ever examining themselves or making an effort to comply with the helpful directions offered.
Predictable Outcomes for Cooperation
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 comply with treatment.
You will also allow yourself to discover some things about yourself, learn some additional coping skills, and probably find yourself in better standing with family, friends, and the court.
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. These red-flag warnings apply to all of us that are addicted. But one in early recovery is not cooperating with recovery directions.
Share Your Experiences and Give Hope to Someone Struggling
I have been on this journey for over 30 years. How I think and what I write about addiction and recovery are authentic for me. But I know that how you describe your addiction issues and your recovery solutions will touch others in ways that my words can’t.
Consider a guest post today and help someone else understand that recovery works.
Send your submissions to email@example.com; thanks.
Writing and recovery heal the heart.
There is another label that I wear proudly – that’s an advocate. Here’s how I went from addict to advocate, Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate available on Amazon.