General Recovery Issues

Mario and I had been working together for a few months because he really wanted to stop his active drug addiction. We had discussed many issues to prepare him for stopping so that he would detox more successfully than in previous attempts. We had analysed all the lessons he had to learn from his past experiences, and he felt ready to detox, despite his fear of failure. He assured me that he would keep in contact with me after he got clean.

I had a session with him one week after he had detoxified. Mario reported that he was feeling great, but was worried about relapsing one day if he lost a battle with himself not to use, as he had done many times previously. I acknowledged that in recovery, the day seems so long when not filled with scheming, scaming, scoring, sedating and sleeping. We discussed how staying clean involves more than not using. Not using implies not doing something. However, we are designed to do things, and not designed not to do. So I suggested to Mario that if he has stopped using drugs, he needs to start doing other activities to fill the vacuum created by the absence of his drug-of-choice.

Mario agreed with what I was saying and then asked me to make suggestions about what he should start doing. I thought about how best to answer his question. I thought of all the layers of possible answers that I could give. There are increasingly more subtle answers to that question, depending on the stage of recovery the person is at. It can take many years to fully understand the depths of the work needed in recovery.

I decided that it was best to start at the top layer-paying attention to his basic physical and emotional needs. We talked about the ways he can help his body heal from years of not being looked after. We talked about his need for quality food in moderate quantities. We talked about gradually starting to increase the amount of physical activity that he is involved with.

We also talked about his need for positive human interaction. Mario asked about whether it was a good idea for him to go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I explained to him the basic ideas behind those meetings and how he could find the idea of “a higher power” helpful even though he had no religious beliefs. He said that he had a non-using friend that he had not seen for years, and that he would ring him up to catch up over a coffee. He decided that his friend would be his higher power, somebody apart from himself who can help him. I was also his higher power.

Mario also got excited at the idea of joining a gym and going every day. He said that he had done this in the past, and had kept it up for quite a few weeks. Yet, what always happened was that he eventually lost the motivation to go every day, and started going less frequently until he stopped going completely. However, he felt very confident that now was different and that he could maintain his regular gym attendance consistently well into the future.

In response, I said that he needed to take baby steps to change. Evolution works better than revolution. Drastic, quick changes don’t last. I encouraged him to go to gym less frequently initially with a review at the end of one month. He reluctantly agreed, and I knew this issue would need further discussion.

I also talked about his need to start becoming aware of his feelings, because it is his emotions that will trigger off a relapse if he ignores them. We then talked of some simple ways that he could become more self-aware.

The session ended, with Mario agreeing to take some small steps in a few of the areas that we had discussed, and to come back on a weekly basis to review his progress and to plan future steps.

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