Many people who need some kind of help at a substance abuse treatment center feel shame from the fact that they have not been able to stop drinking or using drugs on their own. There is a very real stigma attached to substance abuse, because the person who is intoxicated acts out, demonstrating behaviors that hurt the people he cares about.
For some, there’s a past history of wrongs they have experienced at the hands of others. They have turned to substance abuse as a way to mask their hurt and pain. There is little that’s positive for them within the context of their daily life, and so they reach out for a substance that activates the pleasure centers in the brain. It’s the only way they can hide what they hate and experience any kind of comfort.
The negative feelings that the person experiences from his past are multiplied by the shame he feels from using his substance of choice. Sometimes he doesn’t even understand, logically, why a past event continues to haunt him. It makes him feel as if he’s a bad, ineffective person who deserves little happiness in life. If he’s like many addicts, he has so many secrets that he can never imagine becoming sober.
But the person who actually seeks treatment really doesn’t need to feel any kind of shame. A substance abuse treatment specialist is aware of all the many ways that addiction can affect a person and his family. He understands that a person who uses may be compelled to keep using because of a biochemical component to his addiction. The counselor recognizes that the addict may be suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder. He knows that many addicts cannot stop using because the substance abuse has become a pattern ingrained deeply into his life. He knows that the addict is haunted by secrets of the past, nightmares and monsters that tell him he will never achieve recovery. But the counselor can help with all of that.
When a person enters into substance abuse treatment, whether it’s for alcohol or drugs, there is not some kind of abrupt immersion into therapy. The counselor moves the person gradually toward working on his recovery. The initial phases of treatment will most likely include time for the recovering addict to get to know his treatment team. If he is in a residential substance abuse treatment center, he will also need to become acquainted with the other people who are seeking services at the same time he is.
The counselor will take the person through a series of exercises. A common exercise involves a model called Use-Consequences-Secrets. In this therapeutic exercise, the addict writes down the first time he used, what he used, what were the consequences, and what secrets he kept as a result. He includes on this list all the times that stand out in his memory, when his addiction deepened, as the consequences worsened, and as the secrets became more and more complicated in his life.
It takes time for the person in recovery to break through the pain of the past and move forward. An inspirational writer named William Arthur Ward said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you dream it, you can become it.” It’s time to believe that you deserve a better life. If you feel haunted by things that have happened in your past—or this applies to someone you know—it’s time to begin the struggle to overcome those things and move forward. It’s more than drug rehab; it’s life rehab. The substance abuse counselor knows how to help.