In an attempt to medicalize everything, we have come to see addictions as a disease, when in fact addiction counselling consists of treating the self that is diseased as it failed to actualize; choose an addiction counsellor who knows what he is doing because he has dealt with his addictive tendencies.
The prevalence of addictions is a sure sign that people are craving the experience of being alive. Though addictions may attract the very opposite experience over time, namely death and decay, they are means to an end; that of being in touch with oneself. The problem with addictions is that we depend on something or someone external to us to give us a taste of what it would feel like to unapologetically be ourselves. The issue therefore isn’t the thing or person itself, but the reliance or dependence on that thing or person.
A dependence on anything or anyone is problematic because it blinds us of the fact that we can potentially have the experience of being ourselves, by ourselves, for ourselves. The experience of being genuinely oneself, which is a product of having survived one’s aloneness, is a lifetime undertaking and study. Most of us aren’t interested in such a commitment, especially when we aren’t sure whether we are going to succeed or not. However, the joy is in the journey, not the destination. Therefore, we give up on ourselves at the drop of the hat. When we have dropped out and given up on ourselves, the only thing that is left to do is to forget the pain of not living the life that was intended for us through addictive behaviors of all kinds. The substance or person of addiction thus gives a surrogate experience of oneself. The reliance on a substance or on the presence of a certain individual to have a temporary experience of oneself creates the addiction to that thing or person. By right, this experience should be the outcome of profound work on oneself.
From this perspective, the role of an addiction counsellor would be to deliver you back to you, in your original state. In that state, which is similar to being a child, joy and growth are naturally occurring. Hence the reliance on something or someone to provide an experience of happiness disappears. Addiction counselling can thus be viewed as a transformative process through which you are unburdened from responsibilities that don’t belong to you, freed from having unnatural expectations of yourself and others, and allowed to be yourself – whoever that self may be in that moment.
Treating addictions differently: Addiction counselling isn’t the treatment of a disease as it has recently been made to be. Rather an efficient addictions counsellor focuses on the self that is diseased. Thus during our counselling sessions, expect the counsellor to be dealing with you, for you to connect more readily with you and to let yourself flow more freely.
One of the main reasons why addictions counsellor usually fail in their endeavor to put a stop to addictive behaviors is that they attempt to treat the symptoms (i.e. the addictions) not the addictee. If counselling has any chance of success, a substance use counsellor has to first come to understand why you might be addicted in the first place. Most often, an addiction is the outcome of having failed to rise to what you can be. Therefore, the reasons why you may be unable to realize your human potential have to be scrutinized during our counselling sessions.
Often the counsellor would identify inaccurate core beliefs, self-negating patterns, chaotic emotional reactions, and unhealthy behavioral habits leading to the vicious self-destructive cycle that is typical of addictions. Counsellors may typically try to work at modifying those, hence leaving the self unattended. In such instance, when the self has not been dealt with, positive treatment effects are rarely long lasting. At the same time, it is true that core beliefs, self-negative patterns, emotional reactions and unhealthy behaviors often have to be worked on in counselling sessions before improvements may be witnessed and that the reliance on addictions can be loosened. The bottom line is that addictive behaviors will continue as long as the self does not come fully operational.
Addictions are meant to hide or suppress the pain of not being oneself. Therefore, addiction counselling is a painful process, as it will inevitably bring you to face your fears. A good addiction counsellor progressively uncovers the fears you may have with the faith that you can survive and rise above your fears.
Most, if not all of us function at lower than our full capacity, which itself is painful. An addiction hence serves the purpose of masking the pain associated with being less than ourselves. As a substance abuse counsellor, I assist you in identifying what you have come to believe that is not you. You don’t need to be told who you are – only you can know who you are; you only need to be shown who you are not.
This counselling process might not necessarily be comfortable, especially since we tend to desperately attach to what we aren’t, mainly because it is known and feels safe. Thus we defend, kick, and scream during the deconstruction process that happens in counselling, as we had mistakenly started identifying with something we are not. This is the very reason counselling takes time: The counsellor has to navigate through a mine field, waiting for the client’s readiness before defusing bombs and telling the clients that the behavioral or psychological habits that served them at a certain time are now hurting them.