Yeah Right?! Addiction Recovery is anything but simple.
I work a lot with Addictions and several years back I had a break-through with my clients regarding alcohol and drug addictions therapy and ever since then my work with addictions has become a lot more rewarding. In this blog, I am going to share with you what the breakthrough was for me and teach you a secret that may help you as well if you are struggling with addictions and are wanting to get help.
If I had it my way, I would make it a law that people cannot use or obtain alcohol or drugs until they are 25 and their real personality has fully developed and evolved and their brain has stopped growing. I am sure when you hear me say that you are thinking to yourself; “OMG, have you fallen off of your rocker? Are your nuts?” Valid question, but No, I am not and let me explain to you why I would say this. First of all, let me start by saying that I am not against recreational drugs and alcohol use at all. Frankly, I know that God created substances purely for our enjoyment and pleasure. However, the reality is that when people start habitually using in their teenage years they do not allow their REAL personality to fully develop and this has significant negative consequences on their overall development and confidence.
In our teenage years, this is a CRITICAL time for the development of our brain, personality, and social skills. From the ages of 13-18 our brain is developing at a rapid pace. In this critical time period, we are learning all of our interpersonal and social skills and when we habitually use chemicals at this age we stop developing these social skills because when we are in social settings and we drink to numb our anxieties and insecurities we are using alcohol as a crutch and our social skills and real personality ceases to develop.
The reality is there are millions of adults that would not consider themselves to be addicts or alcoholics in any way, but yet they are not able to really let loose and have fun unless their drinking and this conditioning started back in high-school and college. If this is true for you, I would say that you are an alcohol dependent and you don’t even know it. The truth is in high school most teenagers are very insecure and awkward and they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. This apparent awkwardness and insecurity is a completely normal part of our psycho-social development.
In high-school, when students drink habitually on weekends when their hanging out with their friends what they are doing is using substances as a way to numb these awkward and insecure feelings and when we habitually do this we are ceasing the development of our own natural personality. When we have to interact with people and we cannot use substances, we are forced to socialize, we learn how to tell jokes, we learn how to ask people questions, we learn how to express our feelings, we learn how to talk to the opposite sex, and we learn how to share stories and interact with people being SOBER.
When someone has been a habitual drinker for most of their adult life and they decide that they want to stop drinking for a time, they may naturally feel like their back in high-school again emotionally and they may feel awkward, boring, no fun, uninteresting, not know how to socialize, and feel insecure when their socializing. When these feelings reach a peak, its these feelings that will often drive them to drink again because they want to feel the “confidence” that the substance provided them. However, what they don’t realize is that when they allow themselves to actually feel these insecure feelings and push into these feelings and attempt to socialize anyways their REAL social skills and their REAL personality will start to develop again over time and they will become confident in who they are and in their ability to have fun and socialize without needing to drink. However, it’s fair to say that when they first stop drinking, their confidence will get a lot “worse” before it gets “better”.
I was just working with a high-school client and he was talking about how all of his friends drink and they don’t know how to socialize unless their drinking and I recommended to him that he and all of his friends should stop using for 3 months and just hang out with each other and learn how to have FUN being sober and let it be awkward and weird and through that experience they will actually learn how to socialize and have FUN and be confident without needing alcohol. He said he would be willing to start with a week. I told him fair enough, we’ll just take it a week at a time 😉
If you cannot loosen up and have fun without having a drink, The BEST thing that you can do to further develop your personality is to take a 6 month fast from substances and purposefully put yourself in social settings and teach yourself how to socialize being sober. If you would like to work with me as your therapist, I can help you as well by teaching you strategies and coping skills to effectively deal with the hard emotions such as intense inadequacy, shame, and insecurity that sobriety may bring up. If you do this and you find that you are awkward and anxious and insecure in social settings, welcome these feelings as these feelings are EXCELLENT indicators that you are doing exactly what you need to be doing.
After these 6 months, if you keep challenging yourself, you will find that you will be able to be your normal and FUN self again without the need to use substances to get you there. By the way, relapse is a part of the sobriety process. When this happens, do not catastrophize it, instead really try to learn from the experience. Addiction Recovery is for the courageous at heart, Addicts in Recovery have very high levels of SISU. What is SISU? Ultimate Determination, Fortitude, and Persistence Carried Out To An Unfathomable Level. You Got This.
Kelly Johnson, MA, LPC