Sadness and Recovery from Addiction15 Jul, 2016 09:36 AM
For over 50 years now, standard treatments for recovery from addiction have included cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and 12-step approaches. The past couple of decades, though, have seen alternative treatment models emerge, largely because of the relatively low success rate of some of the most popular treatments available. Since there is no single road to addiction, standard treatments sometimes fail because they fail to address the needs of the particular individual, or the reasons why they have sought their own private escape, through drugs. Addiction can arise from a variety of causes, according to recent research. Contributing causes include genetic factors, having a mental illness, abuse, etc.
Alternative therapies that are currently being used successfully in many top rehabilitation centers across the globe include yoga and mindfulness meditation (which focus on keeping the individual’s mind ‘in the here and now’, encouraging them to feel and ‘ride through’ their cravings instead of succumbing to a ‘higher power’ for help or trying to push their desires away). Horticultural therapy and art therapy, too, have garnered their fair share of success; the former because of its strong mindfulness component and the latter because of its ability to embrace an addict’s ambivalent feelings about quitting drugs. Art therapy is an important component of motivational interviewing, which seeks to promote reliance on the self to overcome addiction by finding inspiring reasons to quit.
A person who is addicted to drugs has many positive things to look forward to when they are drug-free. These include mending bridges with family and friends who may feel let down, finding one’s place in one’s profession once again and having he chance to do what ignites one’s passion, and enjoying a sense of greater physical and mental wellness. Motivational interviewing through art therapy, however, provides the recovering person with the chance to express their sadness. It is unrealistic to think that there is nothing an addict will miss when they are no longer using and they should have a chance to recognize and express their ambivalent feelings. Because art is so symbolic, it permits many interpretations and through their work (and with an aid of a trained therapist), the person in recovery can talk about why using drugs fulfilled them, without feeling like they are being judged, blamed or criticized.
What is there to feel sad about when one quits drug use? Addicts in recovery may miss the group of friends they used to use with, or a person they were romantically involved with; they may miss the high, the feeling of escape, the elation of avoiding responsibility. The individual should be allowed to express their grief about quitting drugs. Like all other grief, theirs travels through different stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Note that depression (feeling intensely sad, feeling hopeless or without the motivation to do things one used to love) is an undeniable part of the recovery process. We should never disenfranchise someone of the right to grieve, yet many recovery therapies fail because they seek to do just that. Families and friends should be sensitive to this issue and should not force the individual to see only the positive side of recovery.
Sadness should be acknowledged and heard, largely because for many drug users, it is a feeling of emptiness, loneliness or lack of self-worth that lead them to use drugs in the first place. Families supporting a loved one through recovery can help their loved one by also undergoing therapy/counselling. When a loved one is struggling, the last thing they need is to be nagged, criticized or blamed, yet family members, too, should refrain from blaming themselves. Rather, any weaknesses in the family’s manner of communication, poor conflict resolution techniques etc. should be identified and addressed, with family members always looking ahead towards the common goal – helping the person in recovery and every other member in the family achieve greater health and wellbeing. During counselling, family members, too, should be encouraged to express their sadness. Many individuals harbour guilt because they feel they could have done more for their loved one, yet in the end, the causes of addiction are too profound and complex to identify so that everyone should work on improving what they can, accepting themselves and their loved one just as they are – with their sadness, anger, and disappointment, but also with their dreams, their hope and their love, which always remains, regardless of the vicissitudes faced.
- Article from Gemma Galway