Family Addiction Recovery: A Blog
It’s my belief that a flexible mind helps us to deal with chaos, loss, big life changes, small frustrations, and all that life throws our way.
A flexible mind leads to more peace. You’re not as stuck in your ways, and can adapt to change. You don’t always think you’re right but are curious about other people. You can take on new challenges with a smile.
I don’t always have such a flexible mind, to be honest. I’m working on it.
When I’m not flexible, I can feel it: my mind starts to feel rigid, I feel frustration, irritation, anger, disappointment. There’s a feeling of not wanting things to be the way they are, feeling of being wronged, attacked. It’s the result of being caught up in whatever story you’re telling yourself.
So here’s what I’ve been working on, to develop a more flexible mind:
Not knowing. A flexible mind is one that doesn’t really know what should happen, and is not even sure what will unfold in this next moment. It is curious, like a baby exploring the world afresh. When we sit in meditation, or take each moment as it comes, we allow ourselves to not know, and to be interested in whatever arises.
That’s what I’m working with, imperfectly and forgetfully, and I find it helpful.
Author Shannon Zastrow
Why do I keep feeling this way? Why can’t I get over it already? Why can’t I make the changes stick? I’m worried that I’ll start using ... again.
If you’ve ever had these thoughts flash across your mind, then you’re familiar with the struggle to sustain positive behavioral change through addiction recovery. You may believe that you need more willpower or personal strength in order to stay clean and sober.
But what if the problem isn’t your personal determination at all? What if your prior efforts to heal didn’t work because you only learned a handful of coping skills for addiction when what you really needed was therapy to address the underlying issues driving your behavior?
This article will clarify the difference between therapy and coping skills, discuss their roles in traditional addiction recovery programs, and explore how a more integrative approach can promote lasting recovery.
What are Coping Skills for Addiction?
Coping skills for addiction are the techniques we use to handle life’s challenges and navigate difficult situations.
Though the term tends to have a negative connotation, the reality is that coping skills - or broadly speaking, behavior modification skills - are a necessary part of life.
For example, if you’re trying to stop drinking, it makes sense to avoid your favorite pub by taking a different route home from work!
This is a positive coping strategy.
There are many good mental health and behavioral change strategies, including:
For example, people often employ negative coping skills in times of extreme stress. They may use drugs and alcohol, or self-harm, or work to exhaustion.
These negative coping skills represent attempts to manage pain without addressing the real root cause of the suffering.
What is Addiction Therapy?
Addiction therapy involves sessions with a trained therapist who treats mental and emotional health issues. There are many different therapeutic treatment modalities, (approaches) and no one modality resolves every addiction issue.
Different modalities work best for different issues, be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. There’s no one magic bullet approach that fixes everything; on the contrary, the most effective treatment integrates several approaches in a holistic, personalized manner.
12-Step Programs and Approach to Recovery
At present, most addiction rehab programs employ a 12 Steps approach. However, since therapy is not part of the 12 Steps tradition, many people don’t receive the individualized treatment they need for addiction recovery.
To be sure, Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step groups have created a culture of steps, rituals, slogans, meetings, and sponsorship that do help some people to replace their dysfunctional habits with positive ones. Many people have attained sobriety and sanity this way. Those who can make it work have become beacons of light for their peers.
However, many other people struggle with this approach. They go to 12 Step programs because they are accessible, familiar, and popular.
Yet many report that they don’t feel heard and that the moralizing lectures and repetitive meetings aren’t helpful.
Addiction Therapy: The Missing Piece in Residential Rehab
The 12 Steps were developed as a grassroots program, and in this capacity they’ve helped millions of people find community and sobriety. However, 12 Step programs were never intended to be an alternative to addiction therapy.
As such, the amount of counseling that participants receive in 12 Step-based residential rehab varies tremendously. While some 12 Step-based rehab centers do provide significant time in therapy, many others do not. Instead, they rely on daily 12 Step meetings led by laypeople.
For some, this is sufficient to effect change. Yet others are left feeling as though they’ve failed because they weren’t able to “work the program.” But what if the real problem was that the program didn’t provide support for their mental health issues?
Even the 12 Step programs that do offer a professional addiction counseling tend to rely on behavior modification and coping skills alone. However, this is an incomplete approach because it doesn’t address the core mental and emotional issues present.
Dual Diagnosis and Addiction
Research shows that most people who struggle with addiction are also dealing with a mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The technical term for this is dual diagnosis.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “Among the 20.2 million adults in the US who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.”
Proper treatment for mental illness involves professional therapy, not just coping skills. At the end of the day, the question is, Do you want to cope with your issues or heal them?
Combining Coping Skills for Addiction and Therapy
Dual diagnosis treatment isn’t about choosing between coping skills and therapy. Rather, it’s about combining the strengths of addiction coping skills and therapy to promote recovery. It’s about using a holistic model of healing, one that integrates all four levels of self:
Emotional wounds are like physical ones in that if you open up a wound, it is important to know how to close it back up properly! Trained therapists can help individuals to close those inner wounds with love, compassion, and expertise.
In the process, people tap into the power within them and redirect it for good.
They learn to stop abusing themselves and begin to make self-honoring choices.
They start to counsel themselves and work through the issues that arise when they return to their normal lives.
“Simply put, you believe that things or people make you unhappy, but this is not accurate. You make yourself unhappy.”
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
It is usually pretty easy to become a happier person.
It is also quite easy to rob yourself of your own happiness. To make yourself more miserable and add a big bowl of suffering to your day. It is common thing, people do it every day all over the world.
So this week I’d like to combine these two things. I want to share 7 happiness stealing habits that I have had quite a bit of trouble with in my own daily life (and I know from the emails I get that many of you do too).
But I’d also like to add what you can do instead if you find yourself being stuck in one of these destructive habits.
Click here to cont.
Timothy Harrington is passionate about helping family members of the addicted loved one awaken to their own power and purpose.