By: Marilyn L Davis
Participation: Start with Your Counselor
“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, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot
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. When someone labels us, it’s hurtful, embarrassing, or a beginning.
To address your present situation, you are about to enter treatment, so you should consider adding one more label: 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?
1. I Do Want to Participate and Change
For some of you, the end of your using and the beginning of treatment prompt feelings of relief. There may even be some excitement as you can anticipate better outcomes in your life. There are also going to be fears about success or failure.
2. I Don’t Want to Cooperate, and I’m Angry that I’m 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, too.
Process, Participate and See Results
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, 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.
When you enter treatment, focus on an aspect that you know needs improving; it's a beginning. Click To Tweet
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. 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.
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 32 years, I understand the pull of addiction and wanting to use. I also remember thinking that there was no way I could cope with life without using.
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 allow you 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 the exact problem is their feelings, thoughts, and actions.
As you are in treatment, you have nothing to lose by exploring the aspects 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 deciding 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 support method 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 resist treatment or walk away from therapy without ever examining themselves or making an effort to comply with the helpful directions offered.
Many regret these decisions later or never get another opportunity for treatment, and some die.
Predictable Outcomes of Participation
We have choices in our recovery that we never had in our use. 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.
Treatment is an opportunity to discover some things about you; learn some other coping skills, and probably find yourself in better standing with family, friends, and the court. Click To Tweet
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 thirty-two years, starting in a treatment facility, too. I listened, followed directions, and little by little, I made small changes each day. Recovery is possible.
I hope this encourages and motivates you to take this opportunity to change and experience different and better outcomes.
Writing and recovery heals the heart
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available at Amazon, Books A Million, Indie Books, and Barnes and Noble.