The connection between past life experiences and addiction is irrefutable. This is why it is essential that an addict confront their past, and acknowledge its role in their addiction during recovery.
At an early age, we tend to develop certain behaviors, and these behaviors are linked to how we interact with other people and handle situations. The difficulty lies in trying to identify the factors that caused these behaviors to originate in the first place. Because they are so deeply implanted in our subconscious, uncovering the reason for their origin is nearly impossible without professional help.
Being able to recall past events is difficult, especially for addicts. It can be stressful, painful, frustrating, and unpleasant after prolonged substance abuse, which affects the memory and is generally an addict’s solution for suppressing reality.
The truth is, failure to accept that a connection between the addict’s past experiences and their addiction exists diminishes any possibility for successful recovery. One of the steps that members of our inpatient program take in an effort to end the vicious cycle of substance abuse is addressing their past experiences, and developing healthy behaviors as a result.
Sessions involve having one-on-one and/or group discussions about an addict’s past experiences, current challenges, and future goals. Sessions are generally held a few times a week. In some cases, depending on the severity of the addiction, we do recommend that our patients attend individual or group sessions daily for several weeks.
The first step we take to better understand a patient’s situation is encouraging them to talk about their past experiences. We do this in life story therapy with the following steps:
1. Creating a Chronology of Events
Past events can be hard to remember, especially the painful ones that we’d rather forget altogether. Sometimes these events lack clarity, and can be very confusing to recall. The easiest way to identify, differentiate, and process these experiences is in small steps. This can be done by listing a series of previous events, leading up to the most recent. Alternatively, you can start with the most recent events and work your way backwards.
2. Filling in The Blanks
The next step after listing the events would be to fill in any gaps that may exist. Slowly, as you begin recall more and more, experiences you’ve suppressed may be brought back to light.
The more an addict reveals about their pasts, the easier it becomes to break down these events and understand the reasoning behind them. With this information, a counselor is able to identify the factors that have played a role in the patient’s addiction.
3. Allowing Time to Grieve
Allowing yourself time to grieve can give you much needed relief. Most addicts do not like to acknowledge loss and grief because they often associate these emotions with sad events, such as losing a loved one.
However, painful events (such as been abused when you were a child) bring about the same emotions. In recovery, addicts are encouraged to grieve the experiences they’ve lost. These could be close friendships, romantic relationships, or missed opportunities. When these events are identified, your counselor can help you process them, address the root problem, and devise a plan on how to move forward.
4. Taking Time to Learn and Grow
One thing that counselors at Scottsdale Recovery Center understand all too well is that no two patients are in the same situation. Each individual who walks through our doors has different past experiences, and their levels of addiction also vary. This is why we offer both individual and group therapy sessions.
Not every individual feels comfortable talking about their past in group therapy. While others do better when they share their life experiences with others, some patients do not. In cases where an individual does not feel comfortable in group therapy, we create one-on-one sessions where they can open up in a more private space.
Heavy importance lies in giving patients time to process every event that has made a deep impact on them. This step is crucial because it enables addicts to identify feelings associated with each particular occurance. By doing this, they are then able recognize the emotions associated with destructive behaviors.
The Benefits of Group Therapy
While one-on-one sessions have their benefits, we always encourage our clients to enroll in group therapy. This model enables addicts to learn from each other, gain confidence, offer and receive support, and understand that they are not alone. Listening to the stories of other individuals often helps addicts remember their own suppressed pasts and emotions. This isn’t to say that it’s not okay to start your program in private therapy. Eventually, you may find a group where you feel accepted and safe.
It’s An Ongoing Process
Life story therapy is a process. Addicts need time to grieve, learn, and grow. Therefore, inpatient treatment may last between one and two months. Once the process begins, it is important that it continues until the day the individual graduates from the program. This helps lower the chances of relapse.
Acknowledging that past experiences play a role in addiction, and identifying the factors that contribute to destructive behaviors, are critical steps in recovery.
Every person’s life journey, both past and present, is unique. When we understand how our past changes who we are, we empower ourselves by knowing which behaviors to change, improve, and discard altogether. If you are suffering from addiction and feel as though you could benefit from one of the programs listed above, call Scottsdale Recovery Center today.
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Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 866.893.6816.