“Not I, nor anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it yourself.”
– Walt Whitman
Coming to terms with addiction may be the most important journey of a person’s life. Because the addict’s primary relationship is with the addictive substance and everything else is secondary, only used to pursue the addictive high, the addict’s safety, security and life dreams may suffer. The tragedy of addiction is that people can lose their families, friends, money, homes, jobs and way of life. The single-mindedness of the addictive pursuit prevents the addict from dealing with life in a more mature, complex, and responsible way.
One way of coming to terms with addiction is to work with a trained therapist. Because addiction is such an entrenched pattern in one’s life and essentially an emotional issue, individual talk therapy may not provide all the support one needs to come to terms with the problem, but it can serve as a good starting point. The therapist may refer the addicted person to a twelve-step program or other recovery resources as an adjunct to therapy. AA, NA, and other groups, such as Rational Recovery, are free and can be essential to the process of recovery.
The first phase of recovery is to admit the addiction – and this is very difficult for many people. Some people may need to experience the loss of their life dreams and expectations before they can admit that they are addicted to a substance or activity. The addict must then make the commitment not to engage in the addictive behavior in the future. They must move from the primitive quest for power and pleasure to more meaningful, responsible adult behaviors. Part of this process is making amends to those who have been hurt by the person’s addiction. Another part is to learn to draw from the nurturance and pleasure provided by other people – friends, family and the larger community. Another is to get in touch with one’s spiritual self and the normal human desire to connect with things larger than oneself.
The addict must search for his or her healthy self and try to stay there always. Life becomes a series of daily choices – to choose the behaviors of the healthy self and not those of the addictive self. Coming to terms with addiction, finally, means exploring the beauty, joy and excitement of the full and complete person that all of us have the capacity to become.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.