Incomprehensible: not able to be understood; not intelligible. Demoralization: to undermine the confidence or morale of; dishearten. What this means for the person with substance use disorder: the place that is reached that is so painful, shameful, or far from their hopes for themselves that they cannot make sense of how they got there. For many, this is the point where they do something they said they never would in the pursuit of substances, acts like stealing from the workplace or failing to care for their children. The nature of these is so hard for someone who is not affected by a substance use disorder that over time that lack of understanding built a stigma around the disorder that those who suffer from it only turn to recovery after harming themselves or others significantly. This isn’t always true. Each person reaches recovery when they are ready for it, but some might shy away from asking for help because they think they haven’t or must hit that place. Each individual with substance use disorder has their own personal version of what being demoralized is.
I’m Not Like Them
One of the largest obstacles someone entering treatment must overcome is their inner insistence that they are not as bad as others or as bad as those in their lives seem to believe, or that they can manage their substance use on their own. Those with substance use disorders often feel as if they are able to manage the disorder by the force of their own will, and tend to push themselves further and further as they try to avoid admitting they need help. If someone with this thinking enters treatment and hears stories of demoralization that seem more severe than their own, the first thought they may have is that their own story is not as bad and that they don’t belong there.
What is considered demoralizing is absolutely personal. Each person that enters treatment does so with their own set of experiences and beliefs. For some, this turning point in their lives looks like alienating their families, but there are also others that did not grow up in functional or bonded family structures and for them, it takes something different such as a driving while intoxicated charge.
Seen From Another Angle
If there is a willingness, the power of group therapy in treatment can be instrumental in shifting this thinking. Something that is encouraged in recovery is to seek out the similarities, not the differences. Identifying with others helps shift the ego and feelings of being better than others and in that softening a profound shift happens, as one is able to accept others they begin the process of accepting themselves. When the process of accepting oneself transforms the individual with a substance use disorder they can open up in therapy settings, either group or individual. If attending 12-Step meetings, they are able to share at a group level and can be met with acceptance and identification regardless of what form the end of their time using substances as a coping skill looked like. From this place, one can see not only the true nature of the end of their time using substances but they can see how their experiences can benefit others. Once it’s seen that one’s individual story may have parts or stories that a person even newer to recovery may be able to relate to or connect with, they have truly begun to recover at an emotional level. They are able to be of service to those around them for what is likely the first time in a long time, and they can give back what was given to them, hope.
It’s important for someone in recovery to continue practicing these behaviors outside of the treatment space. Recovery is a lifelong process, and no one is rendered perfect when they achieve sobriety. Many of the issues that substances were used to cope with are not things that can be healed quickly. As years of recovery build, more things may be uncovered, perhaps childhood experiences that were not previously remembered or other life experiences that cause new wounds that must be cared for. Other things can happen in life that cause shame, guilt, and remorse, regardless of the length of recovery. Sometimes individuals need others to identify with those ugly feelings in order to create safety and the space to make amends for the behavior that caused them.
The only person who needs to comprehend the reasons for reaching the turning point is the one they see in the mirror each day. Demoralization sounds like an inherently negative word for that place but consider the important meaning that it is the moment someone is ready to believe they are worthy of a better life. When that moment of acceptance happens, usually with the help of adjusting perspectives and judgment of other people, the remarkable journey of recovery can start.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.