I finally completed the 12 Steps of Christmas, encouraging family and friends to work with the person who has chosen to stop using. This complicates doing the 12 Steps, but, my darlings, it’s completely worth it. I am going to do some simplified versions of what the 12 Steps look like with confounding variables. Confounding variables are, in this case, things happening as you’re working the Steps, becoming self-aware, and learning more about yourself and others, good and bad. And really, really ugly.
Let’s give a quick nod to the fact that your brain chemistry is changing (and will continue to do so) as you become sober. We’re not just talking about cravings or triggers. We’re literally talking about your brain changing. It can be shown on brain scans as proof. You will have a hard time being happy, having sex (sometimes), interacting with people (sometimes only certain people), etc. This blog post is about family and boundaries, but also explains a bit about the lack of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine and how, without these, it is difficult to be happy. This blog also begins to speak to the issues of mental health, which we are going to get into.
Let’s address mental health first. The most frequent diagnoses that I encountered as a substance abuse therapist were: PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder (that one’s not what you think), Anxiety, and Depression. Here’s a quick breakdown, people with substance abuse issues and those in 12 Step programs decide that they do not need therapy. That’s bullshit. You do. It’s not for “crazy people”. It will help you, and seeing a psychiatrist might be worth it until your brain begins to create more dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. So come see me. Or someone in real life. Try a couple of sessions because you could have more than one diagnosis.
I am a licensed therapist who mainly has worked in substance abuse and addiction. And I’ve loved it. You wouldn’t hear that often because it’s difficult to work with court-mandated clients because they don’t want to be there and don’t believe they have a problem. I’ve also worked with those who have mental illness. I want to give you the short-list of things that might change or you will realize might be dysfunctional that you never noticed when you were using:
Let’s give one more thing some attention. Remember that time you stole from your Grandmother? Or slept with your best friend’s girlfriend? Just because you’re sober and view yourself differently and made amends, people may forgive, but don’t forget. They may still hide the good china when you’re over. Or look at you like you’re sobriety is a joke and you will relapse at any time.
Prove them wrong. You are more than who people think you used to be. You are someone new and beautiful. Prove it. Use positive affirmations daily. Talk and pray to your Higher Power. Don’t internalize the critics and become your own inner critic. Find a new hobby. Something physical and something artistic. That’s my recommendation. Something that you enjoy is a good start to encouraging those chemicals in your brain to balance back out. I wish you the best of luck in your recovery. If you slip, don’t slip alone. That’s how people wake up dead and I want you to wake up.
Please share your questions, comments, complaints, and experiences with me. Thank you.
**All pics are from Google, Freepik, and title pic was designed using Canva.