Harmony Place Monterey specializes in working with those who suffer from chronic relapse and has developed a comprehensive therapeutic model that approaches long-term addiction recovery. Most clinicians agree that interventions rarely “stick” when an addicted client is “using.” It is only after a client establishes control over addictive behaviors that the therapy can genuinely begin; however, getting someone “sober” is far from helping someone recover.
But herein lies one of our industry’s greatest challenges: Getting someone sober is far from getting someone recovered.
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Addictions perform important functions: they meet certain needs temporarily, provide momentary pleasure, and relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Sometimes, they create an environment of courage that allows a person to do things that might otherwise be avoided, such as navigating social interactions or confronting difficult problems. Most recovering individuals experience relapse, but, lapses can be used to help individuals identify factors that contribute to or maintain addictive behaviors. It’s critical to be curious, especially during a relapse, in order to obtain data needed to achieve an increasingly solid understanding of the self and a foundation for sobriety or abstinence.
Getting Sober, Now What?
Many treatment programs offer “clean and sober 30-60-90″ day treatment. We recognize a pattern in individuals who discharge from treatment, feeling optimistic and hopeful, only to shortly relapse. Family members/partners ask “What happened?” The addiction surfaces once again and the question remains, “Why?”
What Causes a Relapse?
First, it is important to realize that relapse is not uncommon. Many people who are striving to overcome addictive behaviors have set-backs — relapses — as they move toward healthier behaviors and relationships. Dissecting a relapse offers valuable insight into the healing process. It’s essential to ask “why” the relapse has occurred, from inception to completion.
Intimacy and relationships are the single most critical factor contributing to relapse in addictive behaviors. When we ask our clients, “What are you most afraid of if you were to let go of your addiction?” The most common response is “I will be lonely.”
One's addiction to a substance is what provides solace and comfort. The addiction has become a trusted companion, oftentimes preferred over contact with people. Addictive behaviors create isolation, pushing people away to create a pseudo-relationship with a substance that substitutes for one’s connection with others. With addiction as a companion, people forget or don’t learn how to create relationships with friends or lovers. The ultimate component for successful recovery is learning how to connect with people.
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Photo by Larm Rmah
The first step in connecting with others is to discover and strengthen one’s connection within, discovering one’s “real self” instead of the “false self” that has been shown to the world. The false self is an adaptation or mask, created as an actor on a stage, as childhood experiences didn’t teach the individual how to authentically and safely be effective in the world. The client feels like an imposter, imitating others to avoid rejection. For one’s real self to unfold, one must re-own parts of self and emotions that have been discarded. Biographical experiences from early development must be understood and reintegrated.
The next step in the healing process is to establish a secure attachment with self and others. When one is afraid or overwhelmed, a natural response is to turn to others for help. If others are rejecting or punitive, one learns to protect oneself from this danger by shutting down, becoming distrustful, and erecting walls of a false self. In early recovery, one begins to learn how to trust again and how to discern those who are deserving of trust from those who are not. With assistance, clients practice being open, vulnerable, and receptive, allowing emotional attachment without retreat. The individual in recovery must begin to learn and accept that others will often but not always be available to meet their needs.
Developing an ability to self sooth in healthy ways is an essential part of this process in recovery. When relational needs aren’t consistently met and this is processed in therapy, individuals learn to work through perceived rejection in ways other than withdrawal into old, maladaptive habits of addiction.
The final step in connection is strengthening the individual’s feelings of self-acceptance, self efficacy, and learning to treat oneself with kindness and respect. Those who struggle with addiction sometimes feel “conditionally” accepted and often struggle with perfectionism, self-hate, and punishment. It is difficult for this sort of client to accept care or kindness from others, when they hate themselves. Challenging and reversing the individual’s constant barrage of negative self-statements is critical to fostering healthy connections to oneself and others.
The process of healing one’s connection with one’s self begins the journey toward intimacy with others; this is the most critical component to moving an addiction sufferer out of addictive behavior and toward recovery. Recovery often includes periods of relapse, but sustained attention to the recovery process described above leads to greater insight and personal integration of skills learned. As one develops a healthier relationship with one’s self, they are better able to begin the process of intimacy with others.
The goal of our program is to help each individual navigate his/her own interior terrain and subsequently, his/her life path after gaining sobriety/abstinence from behaviors. This goal can include, learning to cope with critical life issues, such as career, education, and relationships, as well as balancing more subtle details of life. Keeping commitments, adding structure and order to one’s life, balancing time alone and with others, establishing healthy boundaries, and developing parenting skills are all some of the goals we help clients work to achieve.
At Harmony Place Monterey, we thoughtfully and thoroughly work to understand why the addictive behavior or symptoms have developed. Once understood and acknowledged, we process and restructure with the individual to reduce the likelihood that an individual will become triggered in the same way in the future. We recognize that shame, guilt, and disappointment in one’s self associated with relapse, contribute to preexisting anxiety, depression, and overwhelm. Feelings of failure, often accompanying relapse, compound an already tenuous relationship with self. The goals of self-love, self-care and emotional kindness are key to the recovery process, but are often difficult to come by.
Harmony Place Monterey provides individual and daily group therapy. We encourage 12-step meeting attendance and step work, as our therapists work intensively with each client to ascertain reasons for chronic relapse.
Understanding each person’s triggers and defense systems help uncover factors contributing to or maintaining addictive behaviors and is essential to the recovery process.
Contact us for a confidential consultation. We welcome your questions and inquiries. Let us assist you in taking whatever necessary next steps are available to you as well as to your partner, family member, or loved one.