Healing Addiction Through Counselling
Have you ever found yourself saying, “My addiction is not that bad. If I ever get as bad as so and so, then I will quit.” Yet, your experience is, that in spite of your best intentions once you start with your drug of choice, you can’t stop no matter how hard you try.
Have you ever told yourself, “I can control this” or “I’ll just stop on my own”, only to find that you’re unable to do so?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are experiencing a common impasse for alcoholics and addicts — the mistaken belief that your desire or will to change your ways is enough to overcome your addiction.
The truth is that if you have crossed the line into addictive use of any substance or behavior, very little effective and permanent change will occur if you attempt to stop all on your own.
A combination of 12-step recovery and addiction counselling services in Vancouver, while not the only option, provide you with the best chance of overcoming addictive behaviors and creating the healthy life you are longing for.
I came to counselling because I was totally crazy — in full flight from reality. I felt hopeless in life and at the point where there was nowhere to go. I knew there was something wrong with me and that I needed to change. I didn’t see the relationship between how unmanageable my life was and that I drank. I believed I could manage and control it on my own. That’s the biggest message I’ve gotten here — that it’s beyond my willful control. That took a while. I didn’t feel I had any healthy relationships with people but I had no words for it. The loneliness I was feeling was unbearable.
All of that has changed. I’m not drinking any more — I’ve stopped using alcohol as a solution to my problems, (which I thought it was before). I have joined A.A. [Alcoholics Anonymous] which has made my therapy more effective. I have a better perspective on my relationship to alcohol and drugs in the past. Building a relationship with my Higher Power got everything moving a lot faster. I have more faith and a spiritual way of life. I also feel I’m more a part of my family now. I’m not as much “the odd one out”. I feel accepted for who I am and I can take in my family’s love today. My attitude of what it is to be a son is different and much healthier.
How to Stop Your Addictive Behavior
If you are like most people who use substances or engage in addictive behaviors you have trouble living in the moment because it is too painful. Yet, it is only in the present that healing can occur.
Relapse happens when you become overwhelmed emotionally and you respond habitually to “soothe” yourself with your drug or behaviour of choice. This could be alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, food, work, shopping or any other compulsive behavior.
In addiction therapy we will help you learn to self soothe in healthy ways in 3 main areas:
1. Manage Your Emotions
Feelings are the language communicated from your heart to your brain. If you are lacking emotional sobriety, you may notice that when you are upset, you often have extreme reactions, unable to express yourself in appropriate ways; perhaps lashing out in anger or crying uncontrollably.
Or, you may shut down completely, withdrawing from contact and then take a very long time to come back out of your shell. These are common responses to trauma or emotional neglect.
It is both the extreme intensity and the long duration that interferes with your ability to manage and express your emotions in a healthy, non abusive way. This ability is called emotional self-regulation.
In addiction therapy, we will help you learn how to reduce the intensity of your feeling states, so you can tolerate your emotional responses to life without feeling stuck or immobilized to change (freeze response) running away (flight) from your feelings or problems or attacking others (fight). Instead, you will learn how to handle social situations without needing to become aggressive or dissociating (checking out).
2. Think Healthier Thoughts
Often addiction is referred to as a “disease of perception” because in addiction your perceptions are often quite ‘distorted’ and fuel the denial necessary to avoid the seriousness of your condition.
- You tend to see things as either black or white with little ability to find the ‘middle ground’ on issues; often this means “right” or “wrong” and creates tension and turmoil, both inwardly and with others
- You are very critical of yourself and blame yourself when things go wrong; it can feel so ‘automatic’ that you often don’t notice the subtle ways you put yourself down, by thinking you are stupid, unlovable or unwanted.
- You tend to catastrophize whenever something goes wrong — you immediately think that the worst possible thing will happen and you begin to plan for that. You blame others for your problems and often feel like a victim.
When I came to counselling I had no self-esteem, no confidence, and was extremely sensitive to any comment ever made to me at work. These affected me deeply. I felt like I was a “bad” person; that I wasn’t working hard enough, or doing enough. So I would stay late, work weekends — I’d do whatever I could to be accepted. I had no boundaries whatsoever. I was lonely and vulnerable and caught up in my alcoholism and my sex addiction, which I thought “wasn’t that bad”.
It took a long time to convince me that I needed to address my addiction first, so other things could fall into place.
Today I feel calm most of the time. I have boundaries at work. I have no more fear and worries because I know I’m doing a good job and I actually enjoy what I do now. I see work totally different as well. Before all I ever thought about was making a buck to support my habit and I hated the system. Now I think of it as meeting others’ needs.
I don’t get upset like I used to in the past. Before when my girlfriend would do something that bothered me I would totally lose it — blow my top. Now, if it happens, I calmly am able to ask her to pay attention to this detail so it doesn’t drive me crazy. I plan and take vacations. I actually organized a trip one month in advance — that never happened in the past. It was two days before and I’d be scrambling to book accommodations, not even knowing where I was going. Total chaos!
The most important change I notice is that I don’t wake up in fear anymore. That loneliness and vulnerability that I felt when I first came isn’t there. What’s there is a knowing that I’m going to be alright on my own.
We know from current brain research that all of our experiences reflect off of the ‘mirror of memory’ in our brains. This is nothing more than the stored accumulation, both conscious and unconscious, of the history of our experiences.
If our experiences in life have been generally supportive and positive, all current experiences will reflect off this ‘mirror’ and feel positive.
If, however, you have had a lot of early or unresolved trauma or loss, this will be reflected or “mirrored” back to you in your current life and keep you perpetually distressed.
For example, your thinking will reflect your distress and you will tell yourself things you learned a long time ago that jeopardize your recovery — such as, “I’m not worth it”, “Nobody loves me” and/or “I’m helpless to change my life”. These ‘old ideas’ can be very subtle at times, and yet they can keep you stuck in an unfulfilled life.
Through our addiction counselling program in Vancouver, you will come to understand that your inner mirror can change; and as you work on changing this mirror your thinking and perceptions, and everything else can change for the better.
You will develop a view of yourself and the world that is reflected back to you in positive self talk. This is a crucial step in order for you to achieve emotional sobriety.
3. Improve Your Relationship with Yourself and Others.
Current research shows that resolving trauma and neglect in early recovery can prevent relapse. Drinking, drugging and all other addictions prevent you from growing emotionally. In lieu of learning how to form healthy social bonds with others and negotiate the complexities of human relationships, your primary attachment becomes your ‘drug of choice’.
The good news is that you have an Inner Healer that you were born with and who wants the best for you.
In addiction therapy, you will learn to connect with your Inner Healer – a ‘Higher Self’ which will allow you to redefine who you are in a more loving way and cause you to be attracted to others who will respect, honor and care for you.
We will use our relationship in addiction counselling as an opportunity for you to begin to develop a sense of safety and security. You will learn to build both inner and outer support that help you to stay present in the moment, as an adult, instead of responding in ways reflective of your unpleasant and traumatic experiences.
This ’empowered’ you can then make good decisions about who you spend time with and how you expect to be treated. In the end, through working hard on developing a long-term healthy relationship you will have earned yourself a ‘secure attachment’, leading to a feeling of inner harmony and safety and creating the foundation for ongoing healthy attachments.
In conclusion, addiction counselling is much more than just helping you stop your addictive behavior — it’s about getting to the underlying causes and conditions and healing them in a permanent way. The Good Life Therapy Centre is committed to helping you find what troubles you deep inside, and to guiding you past your inner distresses.
Once healed, life will take on new meaning. You will feel much more whole and complete than you ever have before. You will have reached your goal of emotional sobriety!