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Addictions Advice – Part 2

Accepting help with Personal Issues

An important component of addiction treatment involves working in therapeutic groups as well as individual (one-on-one) counselling. In group sessions patients learn to trust their peers and counselling staff members and risk sharing experiences and feelings that they may have difficulty sharing anywhere else. Addicted people new to the rehab experience learn through older group member’s sharing free from fear of judgment in a safe and contained environment that it’s likely to be safe for them too. This aspect of treatment allows personal issues to be raised, processed and placed in perspective.

Accepting the help of rehab clinic professionals and of group peers is a great example of addictions advice and the recovery process in action.

Using Appropriate Defence Mechanisms

Everyone develops defence mechanisms that help them to deal with daily life – but unfortunately, the addicted mind can twist these defence mechanisms to protect the addict and their illness from the harsh reality of their situation. While everyone uses defence mechanisms in some way to protect himself or herself from pain, in the case of an addict, it can be life threatening. These natural defence mechanisms are warped through addiction and their interned purposes, to enhance life, is twisted into prolonging the addiction.

It’s critical that the counselling staff are experienced in dismantling the denial network that addicted people have to provide them with any chance of attaining a contented sobriety. Reframing the addicted persons perceptions and life experiences in a loving and gentle manner with the help of family and friends is a real skill and the best primary care addictions counsellors are superb at this. In most cases obtaining collateral from family and friends is a useful way to narrow the discrepancy between how the addicted person perceives their life, their world and their addiction, and how it really is.

Some of the common defence mechanisms, proposed by Abraham Twerski MD in the classic book “Addictive Thinking” include:

Isolation: Limiting contact with family and friends in favour of your addiction. Rationalisation and justification: Giving reasons to explain your addiction. Generally these reasons are entirely plausible, well thought out (at a moment’s notice!) and piece together very well. The reality though is that they are nothing more than a house of cards and exposing this gently can be hard work for the advising focal counsellor.

Blaming: Transferring the responsibility of your actions onto someone else.

Projection: Putting your feelings of anger or insecurity onto someone else and accusing them of being hostile or irrational. This works well when not wanting to take responsibility for other emotions too.

Minimising: Not admitting how much of a substance you’ve had or playing down the severity of the situation and its consequences.

Anger: When confronted, or even gently challenged about their behaviour, addicted people can explode. Family and friends quickly learn that to keep the peace and ensure a little harmony, they need to take what they see, hear and perceive and pretend that it’s all OK. That the elephant in the living room is asleep and it’s best to let sleeping Ellie’s lie.

Co-dependent family and friends know that if they awaken the angry giant elephant, they’ll be responsible for the mess he creates and will have to mop it all up. Such defence mechanisms distort reality. They make family of addicted people question their own sanity. These tactics prevent the addicted person from seeing the truth and taking responsibility for their illness.

Part of addiction recovery is facing up to the truth and finding safe and healthy ways to deal with the consequences of your actions. Being a fellow amongst other recovering addicts and alcoholics is a useful way to access the wisdom and experience of those who have gone before you along the road of recovery.

Contact to find out how you can access support close to where you live.
The first part of this “Addictions Advice” article can be found here.

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