From Colin’s Office: Coming out of an addiction and into a new normal happens in phases. We do not simply put the chemicals down and then find ourselves as a central figure in our perception of what normal really looks like.
We come out of the fog of war and into a therapeutic environment, but at that point we are not in recovery, we are in treatment. Recovery can only start to develop as and when we leave treatment and we start to play our part on planet earth, on life’s terms, where everyone around us can start to relax around us, without substances to support of comfort us. Too many people want what they believe to be normal from the moment they put the chemicals down and this desire for immediate gratification via the path of least resistance, usually manifests itself in some very damaging behaviours:
- Going into romantic relationships ‘falling in love’ during treatment
- Going into high pressured employment positions straight after treatment
- Going into addiction counselling positions as an extension of their own treatment program without ever really contributing to the demands of the workplace outside of a therapeutic environment.
Where many people relapse and/or go on to find themselves in situations that they are not emotionally mature enough to handle with integrity, I would argue that ‘self-discipline’ is the missing character attribute in most, if not all of these false realities and more. Self-discipline says, ‘well yes of course I would love to be happily married, earning mega-bucks and helping people’, but at this stage of my development, if I was asked; ‘would you marry, employ, put your life in to the hands of a person like you right at this moment in time’ – I would have to concede, ‘no, not yet’.
From a very early age children spend much of their time alone or with groups of other children, under distant supervision rather than individual direction. Instead of being managed, they are expected to manage themselves. Instead of depending on enforced obedience and external controls, their behaviour has to depend upon voluntary obedience and the internal controls that we call the ‘conscience’. If parents want to cultivate self-discipline in their children but are trying to do so in the growth medium of that ‘good disciplinarian’, it is not surprising that they are finding it an anxious struggle. Self-discipline in the child is a slow growing plant with roots in identification with the parents/parental figure. Learning to behave and to be comfortable behaving that way depends upon parental influence rather than power; on the warmth of the relationships that adults offer the child rather than the clarity with which they issue orders. Children need to be shown what they should do and prevented from doing what they should not do and they need honest explanations for each piece of the everyday snippets of advice and instruction. Shepherding (counselling) means being there to praise and reproof so that they can generalise from one tiny incident to the next, gradually incorporating clusters of behaviour into a vast jigsaw puzzle of values which will stabilize the ethical and moral framework within them – welcome to recovery, at this point, from a stable internal character compass, you may get married, have kids, hold your own in any workplace, possible even earn a fortune, but most importantly, really help the people around you.