I’ve had occasion to learn a lot about rehab over the past little while, and my brain is on overload. The rehab process, and the journey to sobriety, is a process that must teach us all.
My friend, Adrienne Gold, said some of the most amazing people she knows are addicts in recovery. I can tell within moments of talking to someone if she is either a therapist, or has been through a lot of great therapy. If problems or issues have landed you in therapy, thus begins the journey to self-discovery and self-awareness. You just don’t get that kind of clarity on your own, or without trauma. You just don’t.
The first piece is like the old joke. Question: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Just one, but it really has to want to be changed. There are people in rehab who are there because they are desperately and completely ready to be different, to live differently. These people are there for one reason only: they want, nay, need to be there. They’ve tried not being there, not getting help, and can’t anymore. They know that without help, they’re done for. It’s over.
Then there are those who are there due to communal or familial pressure, or by court order. These people have a much smaller chance of recovery. Sustaining change to your lifestyle to please another person carries a bleak forecast. Other people’s expectations, it seems, are a tepid motivator.
Lesson one: change is possible if and only if the person in question is all in for change. Ideally, it’s their idea. Ideally, they are desperate for it. You just can’t fix and change other people.
Lesson two. There will be relapse. I mean, not for sure, but quite possibly. While relapse seems scary, it should be known that the person doesn’t go back to square one. You learn things about yourself in recovery that you simply couldn’t know prior. And you never un-know those things. You fall into bad habits, but you know better. You still have access to help. You have access to better habits and better people that you didn’t have before. So it’s not a downward slide, but it’s two steps forward, one step back. You’re still on the road to recovery. You haven’t fallen off the wagon; you’ve taken the scenic route.
Lesson three. Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness. Addiction and shame thrive in secrecy. Professor and researcher Brene Brown said, “Shame thrives on secrecy, silence and judgment. Shame can’t survive being spoken.” In regular life, admitting your terrible habits and behaviors is scary because it unpeels you and exposes your ugliest weaknesses. You are now weak and powerless before judgment.
But in recovery, this vulnerability is exactly what brings healing. It shows strength and it creates strength. It gives others strength, and it teaches you that you have the power to create positivity with your negativity. Saying “I’m fine” is a technique of hiding behind a flimsy veneer, but saying “I’m not fine” is the terrifying act of opening a door to an unknown tomorrow. Walking through that door is vulnerable, powerful and exhilarating. It’s also the scariest thing you will ever do.
Lesson four, familial support is everything. If you think that the addict in your life is weak and despicable, the addict will believe he is weak and despicable. Addicts who recover are heroes, but addicts who recover without support are superheroes.
And addicts who try to recover are trying their hardest to be heroes. If there is an addict in your life, even if the addict is not trying to recover, try to see if you can replace revulsion with compassion. Try to see if you can ask yourself what is the pain, what is the trauma, of your addict, that led him to such self-destruction.
And finally, this: Hillel said, “Do not judge your friend until you have stood in his place.” So if you’re not an addict, please wake up every blessed day of your life and thank the Almighty God for that.
Read Ruchi Koval online at cjn.org/ruchikoval. Connect with her on Facebook at ruchi.koval and on Instagram @ruchi.koval.