“I gave up my martini, now I want to punch someone in the nose.”
Abstinence is usually the primary motivation for seeking addiction treatment counseling, but there is much more to be gained through an addiction therapist than freedom from drugs and alcohol.
Addiction professionals go deep to fish out behavioral triggers, thought processes, deep-rooted belief systems unresolved trauma, and underlying issues that often prevent long-term recovery from the disease of addiction. The “addiction” diagnosis is often just the most visible symptom of the disease. It will continue floating on the surface unless the swamp is drained exposing the underlying pests, confronting them, and discarding them one-by-one.
Addiction counselors are trained and experienced at spotting the more subtle symptoms of unrest that lie beneath the surface. Using the latest evidence-based addiction treatment counseling techniques, a qualified addiction counselor can tether the symptom to its underlying cause and gently bring it to the surface.
Once exposed, explored and expunged, the person in search of emotional healing can understand the motivation behind their choices—both in the past, and going forward in a more rational frame of mind.
Here are a few examples of underlying symptoms, treatment methods and how diligence in the process can support long-term addiction recovery.
1- Chronic relationship failures
Someone with an addiction, who has a history of failed relationships, may not be able to see common patterns of sabotage; potentially developed in early childhood. Relationship failures aren’t limited to romantic partners; they often extend to friends, coworkers, strangers, children and even a favorite bartender! For example, if throwing a temper-tantrum as a small child was the only way you knew how to get attention, over time that can develop into rage and aggression as an adult.
The rational adult may understand that being a bully is bad. But that “need to scream & throw a fit” is still lurking under the surface whenever they’re not getting enough attention (either real, or imagined). The adult keeps it in check and doesn’t understand why there often such a feeling of anxiety. Substance use disorder is effective at calming anxiety through self-medication. However, it can also provide the “courage” to scream and throw a fit. There’s some relief in that, but the consequences can be harsh, and the relief is short-lived.
The addiction and alcoholism affects on family, friends, coworkers, are many; addiction counseling can stop the bleeding, but there will likely be some scars. Relationships become damaged in the wake of this irrational behavior. The pesky bottom-dwelling issue kicks off a viscous spiral, which the individual doesn’t even understand themselves, and why they go ballistic. Promises to change keep getting broken because the underlying issue from childhood (abandonment, neglect, mistreatment, etc.) hasn’t been identified, addressed, released, and forgiven.
Effective addiction treatment counseling can begin walking an addict through the treatment process: symptom recognition, identifying patterns, prescribing the treatment. The intended result (sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly): healthier relationships and a continual subsiding of “temper tantrum” build-up.
There would be no need to drink or use over this issue if the rational adult isn’t being outsmarted and bushwhacked by the subconscious noisy inner child.
2) Irrational responses to normal situations
Maybe someone with the disease of alcoholism can’t hold a job for more than 6 months because “nobody appreciates me.” Or, maybe they punch holes in walls when “something in the room is out of place.” Drinking is just one symptom of underlying bedevilments; these irrational behaviors are another. The alcoholic usually has no conscious idea someone didn’t just put the salt and pepper on the shelf so they wouldn’t have to punch the wall; or why they quit his job again. It’s usually “their” fault.
Drugs and alcohol can be an effective tool to calm the irrational feelings of the adult “victim.” An addiction counselor can work to identify patterns and triggers.
Triggers are events that signal the subconscious to respond a certain way—all people have triggers. For an alcoholic or addict, an unresolved trauma is the trigger, and the response was developed in early childhood.
Simply put, maybe their mom fell over a roller skate that was supposed to be put away, and she had to be rushed to the hospital. This would be a terrifying experience for a young child to witness, along with believing it was his fault.
As an adult, they become enraged when something is out of place because they’re terrified that something bad will happen (well, the subconscious inner child is terrified and triggering the adult to control the situation… in a hurry!)
A trained addiction counselor works gently with the adult, and the terrified inner child, to release the fear, release the guilt, and teach the adult to recognize the reality of an event is not the same as their mother tripping on a chair in their childhood—everyone is safe, accidents do sometimes happen, and it wasn’t their fault. This starts to build confidence in the alcoholic to release the old “false beliefs” and respond to situations appropriately.
A result of this work is healthy confidence, less need to control people and surroundings, and greater peace of mind without the numbing effects of drugs and alcohol.
3) Failure to launch
With effective addiction treatment counseling, patterns of self-sabotage, giving up on goals, or staying stuck in unsatisfying situations may emerge as a symptom of something deeper. The addict usually blames some person, organization, or circumstance for their “failure to launch.”
On the surface, substance abuse is to blame for their discontentment, or disappointment, in life. That may be true in some cases; a good therapist may discover that the pattern of behavior started long before the drug and alcohol dependence began.
Using proven therapeutic techniques, an addiction treatment counselor can help the addict reach back to the first time they felt defeated or discouraged. Maybe it was an event as simple as not being recognized or acknowledged for a painting he worked hard to create and felt intensely proud of. Maybe the toy truck he asked Santa for was given to his best friend instead. Maybe he had a hard time learning to read and was repeatedly embarrassed in front of the class.
These appear to be simple un-extraordinary examples that are “no big deal.” Maybe reading this has you thinking, “I’ve been through way worse and didn’t drink my life away over it.” People are unique individuals with equally unique personalities. Young children learn and develop very tactilely through direct observation, experience and emotion. Childhood reactions are not always rational. Any one of those simple examples could have anchored a deep seated belief, “why try? what’s the point? I just don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough.”
If a young child experiences that same type of situation often enough, those false beliefs become rock solid. The childhood belief gets perpetuated in adulthood with feelings of self-loathing, unworthiness, jealousy of the accomplishments of others, etc.
Once identified, a therapist can help the person develop confidence, self-respect, self-love and more. These new beliefs improve and strengthen over time with practice and tools that modify the mindset.
The confidence once achieved through self-medication can be established in mind, body and spirit regardless of the age, social status, or ability of addict at the time treatment begins.
Addiction is like an untamed beast, and counselors, who specialize in addiction treatment, are like Beast-Whisperers. They sniff out the disturbances and provide guidance and practice to the person seeking help. Eventually, the beast feels like a long lost friend.
Addiction is treatable through abstinence, but is more likely to be sustainable with addiction counseling.