I was reminded today of what happens when someone finally seems free of their dependency: they need to confront the source of their anxiety. An entrenched belief, perhaps; an overwhelming one. Addiction can be a cocoon protecting someone from something they cannot face – addiction treatment, a way of coming to think the unthinkable.
What often confuses people is how long addiction treatment can take. Being free of dependency is not the same as stopping, or being abstinent. The desire to use needs to recede; the emotional-intellectual state someone is trying to recreate (the scene they are repeatedly brought back to) needs to diminish in intensity to a point where using is thinkable.
There are three broad phases of addiction treatment: stopping (which involves all that leads to stopping), becoming free of dependency, and then attending to self-esteem. Although the third phase is often also part of the work in the second phase, it can only ever really happen last.
The ideal way to engage with this cocoon, the best form of addiction treatment? Group work plus EMDR, followed by long term psychotherapy. Too much addiction treatment stops too soon, over-investing in what has been seen as stopping, of a person not wanting to use or in apparent gains in self-esteem. Shifts can happen quickly, leading to a sudden, powerful sense of gain. It’s often overlooked that this change brings with it all kinds of complications. A personality needs to adjust to the difference in life.
Occasionally treatment ends too soon, or relapse occurs because the depth of often painful feeling achieved when someone no longer needs to use feels like failure.
Addiction treatment takes time and if it doesn’t it will probably fail.