When, as a Counselor, I speak about Addiction, I can’t help but include the fact that I am an Addict. There’s no doubt about the fact that I’m an Addict in Recovery, but none-the-less, I am an Addict! I’ve been clean and sober for over twelve years, and I am working on 13 years, One-Day-at-a-Time! I am a CAADAC Certified Counselor, in California. I am a member of both the California and National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors. More importantly, I am a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. I’ve served as a treatment program Director, and have been a part of the Startup of two new, successful treatment programs. Again, all of this does not change the fact that I am an Addict. Once an Addict, always an Addict… This is a good thing, though some may not want to acknowledge what I’m saying. In my mind there is no such word as “Recovered”.
I believe that Addiction is very much initially, and later on becomes chronic and progressive, as a result of “FEAR”! There are all kinds of fears that can integrate into personality development. An insecure child can develop many fears. One thing in particular stands out as a cause of this insecurity, and that is poor parenting. I heard someone say one time that 96% of all American families can be classified as dysfunctional! This was based on the definition of dysfunctional as being; When one or more persons needs are not being met, in the family structure. An example would be; if dad has made up his mind that his son is going to be what dad never had the opportunity to be, when the son is inclined and possibly destined to be something else. In this situation, the son will likely never be able to please dad. This conflict then often puts mom in the middle, feeling like she should be able to “fix this” issue. If there are siblings, out of proportion sibling rivalry may grow from the conflict that can become constantly present. As a result of one family member’s distorted expectations, directed at only one family member, the entire family structure has become unstable. What’s worst in this particular situation is that dad is absolutely convinced that he is doing what’s best for his son, and is so blinded by his own belief and desire that he has no clue that he is the source of most of the problems that develop in this family! Two of the options that the son has, are neither healthy for him or the family. He can just, suck-it-up and try to please dad, or he can absolutely reject the pressure, which will in either case, most likely, have negative results for him and the rest of the family. This is just one relatively common case of what seems to be trivial, turning out to be disastrous. This also very often brings “Drugs” into the equation. Every single family member, except “maybe” the instigator, will be living with unacceptable fear in their lives.
Examples like the one above are commonly overlooked and well hidden problems in very many families. Fears of one kind or another are generally the cause of anxiety. In turn, anxiety usually can be temporarily quelled by the use of mood altering substances or psychoactive drugs. Psychoactive is the category that all, commonly abused drugs, fall in to. Anxiety is most often related to fear in some way or another. Just being inherently shy generates numerous fears that most abused drugs can temporarily overcome. That is, they can, until the drug begins generating new problems. Stop, and reflect on how many fears human beings can develop. Some dysfunctional personalities develop as a result of a fear as simple as being very uncomfortable around a lot of people. Many children that only have one gender of role model in their life can develop very unnecessary fear, that is hard to identify until it’s already done the damage.
I’ve learned a lot through formal education, but I am still most familiar with my own case, and use it to understand those that I serve. I have always been fearful in many ways. I have always had a general fear of life itself. What I mean to say is that regardless of accomplishments I’ve made or how other people see me, I privately am insecure about myself and have to constantly use the skills I’ve gained as a Counselor, to address my own self-esteem issues. This gives me a substantially valuable quality of “Empathy” when serving as a care-giver to other Addicts. When working at treatment programs, in individual session with parolees who have just finished a prison term, I’ve had many admit to being afraid. They often are scared by the setting which is new to them. Very often they are afraid of failure in treatment and many repercussions that it might present. They are afraid they’ll let someone down. They are afraid that no one will ever trust them again. They’re afraid of life without the drug that they have often been using for most of their life. They are afraid that their wife will not love the person that they must become and may have never seen before. They’re afraid that they’ll never get a job that will be “gainful employment” because of their criminal record. They’re afraid that they are going to have to be competitive in society without a Driver’s License. The list just never stops, and I completely understand that many of these legitimate fears can cause a failed treatment episode. Thus, it becomes essential that addressing fear becomes a root component of treatment of drug Addiction.
The thing is, that it is usually not possible to overcome all of the fear. My experience has taught me that many “normal” people have developed the coping skill of living with their fear. I believe that this is what I have done, myself, and it’s not easy for me, by any means! After 12 years of Sobriety I still have to go to AA and NA meetings kind of like one has to take vaccinations to prevent diseases other than Addiction, from returning. This brings up the subject of the nature of Addiction Recovery in that it is really a life-long process. Everyone has fears. But, not everyone knows, that somewhere in the back of their mind, they may be able to relieve this anxiety with a drug-of-choice. I’m telling you, first hand, that this is a fact for the Addict.
Group therapy has become a standard for addressing this confrontation of fear. It does not always work for every participant, though. Many people can only face this, often very personal, problem in individual session with a Therapist, Counselor or 12-Step Sponsor. This is also where the importance of knowledge of “self help” concepts is crucial. This is the truest strength of the 12-Step concept that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous. The Alcoholic or Addict draws strength from the group, in meetings, to hold him over one-day-at-a-time until the next meeting, while he is a “newcomer”! For some this goes on for months and even years. There are even some who have to use this method for the remainder of their life, if they are to remain in remission from this disease of Addiction! This amazing “program of life”, AA, has been adapted to address most of the Addictions that people fall prey to. The 12-Step Program is more prevalent than most people could ever imagine. It has spread over the entire globe. I live in a town that has a population of over 250,000. It’s not a big city or a small town. It is, I believe, representative of “Average America”, and with just AA and NA there are over 350 meetings every week.
Somehow I always come back to the 12-Step Program when I speak about Recovery! Though I am a trained Counselor, I realize that when ever I am able to help an Addict, it is because they have decided that they are going to “help him or her self”. We who suffer from the disease of Addiction, are so complicated that to remain truly “in Recovery” we must never forget the consequences of drug use. We, in my opinion, never stop having to address fear. Whether it looks like it from the outside, or not, some neurological characteristics that all Addicts have developed are always just below the surface and capable of causing relapse into the disease. Through the 12-Step Program we can never have to face this alone!