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What Lesson Can You Learn in Therapy?

Posted by arizonarecover on February 20, 2020

Sobriety can be a difficult thing to manage, especially during the early stages of recovery. When a former addict first decides to live a life of sobriety, they become subject to something called withdrawal. This is a side-effect people with substance abuse disorders experience when they try and ween off their substance (or behavior) of choice. Essentially, the body fights back against their decision to go sober by causing it to experience uncomfortable symptoms like shakiness, profuse sweating, hot/cold flashes, nausea, migraines, and even some more severe ones that could cause someone to wind up in the hospital. These symptoms typically peak in severity after 3-5 days, but there is still a residual desire to use a substance even after withdrawal has peaked. Sometimes, this desire can stay for years after a person’s decision to live sober. So we ask ourselves this question: If a person truly wants to recover and live a life of sobriety, how can they beat or get rid of this residual desire to use substances? The answer is simple … therapy! This is an ample place to learn a lesson or two on how to thrive after rehab. 

Therapy: A Shield For Recovering Addicts

As we mentioned earlier, even after a former addict has spent some time in sobriety, that desire to use a substance can reside for years at a time. Some people that have been sober for years attest to the fact that they still have desires to use fairly frequently. This residual desire has even caused some people to relapse after being sober for some time. Recently, celebrity Ben Affleck celebrated a year in sobriety, but relapsed soon after. This goes to show that people still struggle with that desire, it is no joke. Once a person develops a craving for drugs or alcohol, it’s hard to completely stop it. However, therapy can act as a shield from these desires. 

The great thing about therapy is that it helps recovering addicts find ways of fighting back against these cravings, as well as helps them understand why they’re having them and what they need to do to ensure long-term sobriety. Now, let’s talk about what therapy can do for a recovering addict.

Lesson #1: Learning Triggers

One of the biggest roadblocks that a recovering addict faces are triggers. Now, what are triggers? Allow us to explain: triggers are psychological stimuli that cause a person to recall a previous experience (typically unpleasant or traumatic). In this case, triggers can cause a person to recall their past experiences with substance abuse and may even coax them back into the old habit.

Triggers can pretty much be anything, there isn’t a set rule as to what a trigger can be. A trigger can be a person (someone that reminds a person of their past substance abuse habits), place (a place they frequented when they were under the influence), or thing (a memory, an object that reminds them of substances, etc.). The great thing about therapy is that it helps a person identify these triggers and figure out how to cope with them. Triggers can be overwhelming, even something as simple as an empty beer bottle can remind an alcoholic of their past habits and coax them back into it. What therapy seeks to do is help a person fight these triggers, helping them be able to live life worry-free even if they’re surrounded by their own triggers. 

Lesson #2: Find Meaning in Life, Again

Another thing that former addicts often struggle with is finding meaning in life outside of their old substance abuse habits. When someone is is addicted to drugs or alcohol, their entire life can start to revolve around their substance of choice. It can get so bad that a person starts to neglect important aspects of their lives, only able to find solace and comfort in drugs or alcohol. If a person that becomes this dependent on a substance stops regular use entirely, they could struggle with finding happiness and meaning in life without their chemical refuge.

The great thing about therapy is that it opens up a recovering addict’s eyes and helps them see what life can be like outside of addiction. Living life in addiction is not living at all; you are fully consumed and controlled by your addiction. It’s almost like someone who has a substance abuse disorder is not really themselves. Therapy helps these people see the brighter sides of life and helps them find meaning outside of their dependency on drugs/alcohol.

Lesson #3: Rekindle Broken Relationships

What we often see in people who struggle with substance abuse is broken relationships. When a person is solely driven by drugs or alcohol, it can cause them to neglect important aspects of their lives, such as relationships. Typically, addicts become selfish individuals only driven by their desire to get high or drunk (we must emphasize the fact that this is not the person acting this way, but rather the substance is causing them to act this way). Oftentimes, this can cause addicts to become secluded and reluctant towards friends, family, or loved ones. When this starts to happen, relationships can start to fall apart. 

Friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships can start to crumble under the weight of addiction. So when a former addict finally makes the decision to live a life of sobriety, they can be met with resentment from friends, family, or loved ones. Therapy can help these people rekindle these broken relationships and find ways of making amends. Making amends is one of the key aspects of recovery. When a person is able to make amends with the people they have wronged, they start to feel accomplished, happy, and ready to take on recovery. If a relationship remains broken, this can weigh heavily on a former addict, causing them to develop things such as depression or anxiety (both huge factors in an addict’s possibility of relapse).

Lesson #4: Helps Find New Ways of Living Healthier

Living a life of recovery doesn’t just stop at abstinence from drugs or alcohol; this kind of lifestyle is all about bettering oneself in any way possible. Simply kicking drug or alcohol use is not where it stops, you must continue to find ways of bettering yourself. If a person simply stops using drugs or alcohol, they could still have behavioral issues or mental roadblocks that prevent them from truly bettering themselves. Therapy seeks to help a person find new ways of bettering themselves even after their decision to be sober.

Therapists often encourage patients to take up hobbies or activities that can help keep their mind off cravings or any sort of negative thought that may cause them to relapse. Physical activity, new hobbies, going to more social events, etc. are all great examples of the kind of lesson that a person can learn to do through therapy. Therapists continually encourage these individuals to better themselves whoever they can.