Substance abuse and addictions in general are very difficult for the person involved in them and often times the people around them.
It can be an all consuming lifestyle, where major decisions are often made in order for the addiction to be allowed to prevail.
Our view of substance abuse is that it’s a coping mechanism to help cover up emotional pain in the past, present and/or future.
It allows someone to feel okay for the duration of time that the substance or behaviour is working.
Different drugs or behaviours work differently for different people because our traumas and emotions are different (and different drugs help cover or forget different emotions and thoughts).
Many therapies and programs, such as AA and 12 Step Groups advocate counting the days of sobriety - working on the premise that if you relapse in anyway you have failed and need to start counting again.
We see two distinct issues with the above mentioned method;
It focuses the user on the addiction, or still being an addict everyday of ‘sobriety’
It creates guilt and shame if a relapse does happen, which is usually a driver to want to use more - so instead of a bump in the road it may turn the person back onto the road of using everyday or weekend again.
Although, of course, the person taking the courage to stop should be celebrated and encouraged to keep going. But, the person's identity should not revolve around being an addict anymore - here is why.
True recovery is no longer someone focusing that they are an addict or not, it should certainly not focus the person on thinking about having or not having a drug and struggling everyday.
True healing requires working through the underlying triggers, trauma, thoughts, company they keep, dynamics in relationship and finding a new future projection.
If you focus all of your energy on using or not using - you are still focusing your energy on the addiction - which takes your energy away from healing and creating a new and happier life. We all only have a certain amount of energy to use day to day.
If it has become a part of your identity, or you identify with a community, please know that you can shift this and be truly free. Struggling doesn’t make you a good person - being happy and healthy allows you to be a great person and have the resources to help others and yourself.
Written by: Melissa Hiemann. Co-Founder of The Centre for Healing. Rehab Melbourne, Mental Health and Wellness Programs and Innovative Therapies.