While the 12 Steps do help a large portion of the recovery community overcome many difficulties, they are not a catch-all for solving all of life’s problems. In fact, they were mainly designed to do one thing, help alcoholics and addicts have a spiritual experience, which will expel the obsession to drink and use drugs. In the process, the Steps also give people a way of life, but for many of us, the Steps are not enough to create a solid foundation for long-term recovery. Although with that being said a healthy balance is a key component of recovery. For anyone that is dealing with other issues on top of a substance use issues as well. We need to deal with outside issues. Issues that may stretch back to our youth and in order to do this therapy is often times necessary.
It sometimes seems that therapy can get a bad rap in recovery. This is not true for everyone but often times I have found people to be skeptical of therapy and they are sometimes afraid that to engage in it could put their recovery in a precarious situation. I can’t say for certain but I think that some of this comes from the fact that in certain ways therapy and the Steps stand in opposition to each other. One is focused solely on ensuring a spiritual experience occurs, while the other is based on the pragmatism of self-discovery. But as diametrically opposed as the two can seem, they can both benefit each other when used in tandem.
So in order to discuss why therapy is important in recovery I would like to just take a minute and discuss what therapy is and what it isn’t.
Before I started therapy I had preconceived notions of what going to therapy meant. I believed that it was going to be a place where I would only focus on how my parents messed me up as a kid and because of this every other ill of my life ensued. I believed to a certain degree that therapy was quackery and that the therapist was going to make large unfounded conclusion about my life and this scared me. What I found instead, is that therapy is simply a safe place in which I can explore different ideas and attempt to heal from the damage of my past. My therapist is not tinkering around in my head, planting ideas that don’t exist otherwise, but is instead helping me to see damaging patterns in my life and showing me how I can go about breaking these patterns.
This latter part, about breaking patterns, is one of the most important reasons why therapy can help to aid in recovery. Many of us, myself include, engage in incredibly damaging scenarios over and over again. Whether this be the relationships we get into, or how we operate at work, or really any number of other things. While the 6th and 7th Steps are designed to help us with these things, I have found that just working these Step have not given me the insight necessary in order to change anything, and that is where therapy comes in.
It is said that insight is a precursor to change and so beginning to understand the patterns of destructive behaviors that I participate in and then beginning to uncover what the basis for these patterns were, has allowed me to stop hurting myself in the same way over and over again.
Therapy has also allowed me to deal with certain things from my childhood, like the sexual abuse I experienced, which I don’t think I could have healed from with just the Steps. The Steps taught me how to forgive, but they didn’t help me to deal with the deep wounds that the sexual abuse caused in my psyche because they are designed to do so. Just turning over my feelings about these events to God did not really help me heal either; it just allowed me to receive some measure of peace about them. Only through therapy have I been able to start to address these issues and begin to heal from them.
What I am about to say is completely my own opinion and I do not mean to offend anyone with it, but I believe that part of the reason why you see a lot of people go out between 5 and 10 years is because they have not dealt with underlying issues that could not be solved by the Steps.
Talking to people with this amount of time usually, results in them telling me about how they have in some ways become stagnant in their recovery and that meetings are more routine than enjoyable. Many of the people I have talked to express the fact that around 5 years into recovery they started to notice mental twists or other things crop up in them that they didn’t know about before and they aren’t really sure how to deal with them. Of the people that I have talked to that are in therapy, they seem to be dealing better than the ones that don’t.
I can’t really say for certain that not going to therapy is one of the causes for why these people have gone back out, but I personally believe that it is at least part of the reason.
Therapy is not something to be feared, but rather is just another tool that we can use in order to live a better life and put ourselves in a position for continued sobriety. Not everyone needs therapy, but I know for myself it has been invaluable in my recovery. I don’t think that I could have dealt with the guilt, shame, and other personal issues that I face without a therapist and it has given me an outlet in which I can truly express all of myself without any fear of judgment.
The rooms of recovery are designed to help us stay sober and they do an amazing job with this, but adding therapy into the mix can really elevate a person’s recovery.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.