I learned something new today.
I recently heard a substance abuse therapist at Lakehaven Recovery Center say, ” We have a short time here with them (our clients). I get to the nitty gritty quickly!” I understood what this therapist meant but I did not fully ingest it until today.
I have never treated anyone with substance abuse problems or with any addictions. In school and in practicum I knew the amount of work an addict entailed and I didn’t think I had it in me. Especially considering that I am not in recovery and felt that I would not be the best fit. So everyday is a learning experience. Especially when I am surrounded by exceptional clinicians at Lakehaven Recovery Center.
I recently admitted a 40 year old man into treatment here at Lakehaven. I was happy to hear updates on him from the clinical staff. He completed all of his assignments, he participated in groups, he assisted those who were feeling unsupported, etc. Once his 30 days were over, he was ready to leave. He requested his bags, he had his recruiter holding a job interview for him, he had his father scheduled to pick him up, he was set! When his therapist very wisely requested that he stay longer, this star client became a defensive combative verbally abusive client. He refused to accept that he needed further work. He had set his mind for 30 days, had somewhat comfortably gone through the motions of being physically present in treatment and now had paid his dues and was ready to go. The Lakehaven clinical staff and myself realized this star client had been riding the superficial wave. He had “checked out” days ago and was just doing “his time”. He admitted to just reading books during groups. He stated he was bored, had time on his hands ( I reminded him that the clock moves much slower when you’re sober and able to savor each minute), played chess and basketball everyday. It did not sound like a raw deal to me or anything to complain about but I understood his message. I think he wanted treatment to miraculously jump from the pages of the books he was distracting himself with and take over his body making him a sober angel.
In reality, he was bored because he was not doing his part. He wasn’t ingesting and absorbing his treatment. He was doing his time and hoping that miraculously he would never drink again. I will also add that this is, according to him, his 9th treatment center. Which means he has consistently gone through the motions and ridden the superficial wave of completing tangible tasks in treatment 8 times and had gotten away with it.
Now I comprehend why a therapist wants to get to the “nitty gritty” quickly. It’s essential to challenge clients in order to find their wounds and opens them up to find the root of their addiction. This client became defensive because he knew his therapist was now questioning and confronting him on everything he thinks he knows and has tried and failed, prohibiting him to ride this wave. Someone like her would actually break down the walls he has built surrounding, hiding and protecting the subconscious reason(s) and/or root to his addiction. That would surely rock his boat. His boat which floats on an ocean that very rarely makes it rock too harshly in order to maintain his numbed state. An ocean that is flowing with untruths. One of which is that he knows what is best for him right now.
What I Know
Like this wise and proactive therapist said, we only have a short period of time with them.” Time is a luxury anyone in this field knows these addicts can not afford. We know it’s now or may be never. We know the odds and we rather they get mad at us, call us names, never want to talk to us again then let them walk out of our door when they are still not ready.
Being ready means the addict has surrendered themselves to the addiction. They must wave the white flag and admit the addiction won. They then need to admit that they can not go on alone. They have already lost and need to trust the experts. Trust them during the most difficult time in their lives. A time where almost everything an addict thought was a truth is no longer. To add to that, combat their brain and retrain it to think differently and overcome their erroneous conditioned thoughts and feelings. Actively tell their brain that it is wrong and almost everything they thought was true isn’t. Whewwwww….. That’s tough!
To make matters even worse…. They must trust these experts to search for wounds to their souls. Then reopen old wounds, possibly stick their hands in the deep cuts and slosh around looking for the root. All without their anesthetic or their drug of choice or their ocean of mendacious calm. They must stand in front of everyone that surrounds them in treatment, bleeding and broken and accept the continuous poking and prodding in order to rip the root right out of them.
Being ready means standing naked in front of this new world of truths where shame and guilt, masks, and superficial waves have no home! Where a public redirection could be a means to ending the feelings of shame and guilt that are often the perpetrators of continued abuse of substances. Being ready means allowing strangers to make you feel everything you have always adamantly avoided, even risking your life not to feel, and not running away. Being ready is saying, “I lost the battle but I am going to win the war, because I deserve it. Because I am worthy.”
What I learned today was that going through treatment is probably the hardest thing anyone could ever do. It is a full on battle with yourself while feeling like everyone that surrounds you just wants to continue hurting you because they encourage the fight as opposed to numb it. It is a time where one is pushed and encouraged to face all of one’s demons at once. It is the hardest work anyone could endure and be willing to endure. Willing to surrender and peel away years of layers of grime. Not knowing what will come up in the next layer and how many layers are left. Feeling uncertain of who one is or where one is going. Sometimes feeling like they are walking in a pitch black world without any hope of light ahead. Fortunately, we are present. Some of us have walked in that same dark world and we understand. We are always there to walk by their side and hold their hand when they need it. Meanwhile reminding them that the light is there, they need to continue walking and not give up. Going through substance abuse treatment is the bravest feat anyone could ever accomplish.
Marie G. Gumá, PsyD (ABD) – Lakehaven Recovery Center
Director of Business Development