The importance of professional counseling

30 Mar

11:38 am

Heya! Wow, such a GREAT feeling to have connected with so many of you, my friends, on that last post. A part of me was like, I’m so glad it’s not just me, and another part was like, Oh, jeez, so many of us are suffering from what have turned into core behavioral ticks (I was going to call them “problems,” but I think we’re all just tweaked, here and there, from a lifetime of trying).

First, today is a great day! I’m not hung over! Haha. (Yes, over a year since my last hangover, and I am still totally grateful every morning to not be hung over.) I walked the dogs, and now, I’m going to watch a regatta. Yes, I have plans, and yes, I am working on building some actual outside hobbies/social life. I used to sail as a kid with my dad, and while that was an “interesting” experience to say the least, I’ll take watching the boats go by for now. (I won’t even get into a 40-something man screaming at his 90-pound, 12-year-old girl to “tighten the jib” as the boat, leaking from the multiple holes in the hull–of course, we could never have anything that wasn’t broken or breaking down–toppled from side to side, throwing her every which way, as her tiny hands tried to pull on a rope that she guessed led to whatever the “jib” was.)

Second, I want to say this: While AA is great, and doing this on our own–like, with this amazing online community–is awesome, finding professional help in the form of an addiction-specialist counselor is, well, really, really important. I mean, these people have seen it before, and know how to help. They know what to look for, how to uncover it, and are a physical sounding board–we need this. I don’t mean to bash AA–it’s a great tool to stay sober–but fellow recovering alcoholics simply do not cut the mustard when it comes to unraveling core issues, or, why we drink. We (I’m including myself here, duh) can try to help in that arena, but we’re spinning in circles, just like you.

That’s my two cents, anyway. My experience with counseling consisted of about six months when I was abroad, in college, to deal with my bulimia–it was life-altering for a 20-year-old to come out of that darkness holding the hand of someone who knew how to get me out. Then, I went to see someone who specialized in addiction back in early 2012, for about two months (I ended up moving, which is the only reason I stopped going), and as you can see, she was able to pick out gems in the gravel and hand them to me to stare down at. It was illuminating and instructive, beyond that which any “normal” person could have offered.

So, there ya go! I really wanted to drink–“one” glass–last night, but by the time I ran to the store to get some milk and eggs, I was like, too tired. Tired of the craving, tired of the solution, tired of trying to “figure it out.” So, I just forgot about the “problem,” which, as it turns out, there IS NONE. Just don’t drink. 🙂

20 Responses to “The importance of professional counseling”

  1. momma bee March 30, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Just don’t drink- perfect!!! Enjoy your day!

  2. furtheron March 30, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    I am at an early stage in training to be one being in recovery myself I hope I’ll offer a level of empathy and insight some need to open up.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl March 30, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

      I’m sure you will! Empathy is so key to wanting to open up to someone… AWESOME. xx

  3. Former Escape Artist March 30, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    I can’t decide with the most important thing in my recovery is. But I can tell you (and everyone else) that a professional counselor has been ESSENTIAL for my recovery.

    I’m lucky enough to be in college still where I can see an addiction counselor weekly. I’ve seen him for over two years – including during my brief relapse.

    AA can be useful, but it’s not professional at all.

    I also think it’s important to find a counselor who is not set on one way to recovery. IE: someone who thinks it’s 12-steps or death.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl March 30, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

      So glad you got help! Me, too. And, yes, finding a counselor who is open to all paths to recovery, and even maturing out of addiction, which I guess is the point; that’s KEY to growth. Thank you! xx

  4. Tom March 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    Counseling in particular was useful because it allowed me to explore why both AA and SMART left me feeling ambivalent (which is to say, still addicted). They seemed like two completely opposite systems–so ONE of them must be the right one for me, right?

    I had to be very careful with counselors, though, because it’s hard to be firm about what’s *not* working when you’re confused. Being indoctrinated with AA, you tend to say things like “I can’t seem to get past Step One” instead of “I don’t want to hear any more of this powerlessness stuff, ever. I don’t agree with it and never will.”

    So, they will tend to refer you to more and more intense 12-step programs. One day I realized, “Hey, wait a minute. I originally got into therapy because AA was confusing the heck out of me! How ridiculous that I keep letting myself be referred to 12-step rehabs”.

    I told a counselor once to offer me whatever they could that wasn’t 12-step based, and she handed me a Step One worksheet. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t making myself very clear– that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life ‘in recovery’, and that my own intelligence was being insulted regularly by 12-step programs.

    Then I started insisting on using other approaches. Getting rid of the powerlessness concept with SMART helped a lot, but I was still getting confused by issues, motivation, and reasons. Then I found out that the differences between Rational Recovery and SMART were more significant than I could have imagined.

    I highly recommend the book ‘Rational Recovery’. This book made everything very clear: the single reason we drink and how the majority of people actually mature out of addiction and move on with their lives, in a very simple way. RR suggests not going to any more meetings or counselors for the purpose of ending your addiction, since the desire for ‘support’ is basically a plan to maybe drink in the absence of support. Then you can go to a therapist and focus on other issues, without everything revolving around your mysterious ‘disease’. Turned out to be very true for me.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl March 30, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

      I don’t think of it in such black-and-white terms–I mean, you go to counseling because you are hurting, and confused, not necessarily because you know you are a drunk, right? When I was looking for someone, all I knew is this: I needed to reveal, but I wasn’t necessarily ready or willing to stop drinking. Some counselors rejected seeing me before I actually got sober, which I thought was ludicrous, considering that there is an entire spectrum of people out there, struggling with dependence through to addiction.

      I think when you are drinking alcoholically, it COMES UP a lot in sessions, and that’s what you end up talking about and working on. You should get to decide what’s working and what’s not–if a counselor pushes AA or any other program, and you think it’s bullshit, then it’s time to GO. Fort, I found someone who was what I needed–someone who encouraged me to quit drinking, but allowed me my own “psychodynamic” process, which is to say, figuring out for myself the reasons I drank/was drinking. If your counselor can’t help you do that, then I think you simply need to move on. Unfort, I can see that a lot of “addiction” specialists themselves might push one program over another, so…it really is up to you to use that last bit of thinking power in your final days of using and not be afraid to speak up, and do some derivative thinking. And, yes, you can do this. Beyond the initial detox–the fear and pain of getting off that might very well make you FEEL powerless–you are powerful in that you hold the candle to your truth. Brilliant comment!

      • Tom March 30, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

        Every time a counselor refused to talk to me until I was sober, it came along with a referral to a rehab and an arbitrary time period like six months; that’s what I thought was ludricrous, and usually resulted in me drinking when they could have just talked to me and been open to my own ideas… that maybe I didn’t need a rehab. Maybe I could just stop drinking. Maybe it wasn’t all about alcohol.

        I think it’s reasonable to say ‘you’re not allowed to come in here drunk’, but otherwise, such a referral makes a lot of silly assumptions about your ability to function mentally or relationally for a certain time period, the length of your recovery process, and the effectiveness of a rehab.

        I was also rejected once on the basis that the therapist didn’t specialize in addiction. That also felt like being pigeon-holed, because I just wanted someone to talk to who didn’t feel like they were *responsible* for solving my problems.

    • 365 Reasons March 31, 2014 at 2:03 am #

      Tom, thanks for sharing. I have thought of going to a therapist to work on my self-esteem and depression. But I thought a counselor would just send me to AA or prescribe meds. Never thought of finding that might work without 12 steps. I have thought of SMART. That did not work for you?
      I am only in my current location until July so I was hoping to wait until I figure out where I am moving next before I look for a therapist.

      • Tom March 31, 2014 at 2:29 am #

        The self-esteem and depression thing is caused by drinking itself. If you just stop drinking, you will have more self-esteem. Alcohol is a depressant, so that’s not helping. Your self-esteem is eroded by continually giving in to your urges, when you know you could easily do otherwise. Also, when you quit drinking, the part of your brain that craves alcohol will try to tell you you are depressed and need it, like a baby crying. You can recognize that as ‘not you’.

        SMART didn’t work for me because it was too complicated. Just stop drinking because it’s not good for you, just like you don’t do other things that are just not right, and try to recognize that you CAN do it, and there are all kinds of messages (from recovery groups in particular) telling you you can’t, without help, without support, without god, without ‘working out issues’, etc. etc. etc….

  5. cb March 30, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I finally met with an addiction counselor yesterday and it was the absolute smartest thing I’ve done in a LONG time. I’ve struggled with sobriety. AA is not cup of tea. I like SmartRecovery buy need more. Blogging is great, but I still need more support and to possibly work on other issues.

    My therapist was great and uses CBT. He put aside the drinking for now and delved into other things. Turns out my bigger issue right now is my anxiety. I’m even on meds for it, but stopped taking them. The hope is we get my anxiety under control and the drinking will follow.

    For the first time in this adventure I am truly hopeful. Sadly, I felt like a loser getting therapist and not “just going to AA”. But, I have to do what works for me.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl March 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

      Good for you! And, YES, you do have to do exactly that which works for you. xx

  6. fern March 30, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    Great words of wisdom!

  7. lovinglife52 March 31, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    Professional counselling really helped me so much. I had been in AA for 18 months and was really depressed after some of the advice and methods there. It was time to move on and I did this after getting some modern help.

    I do not consider the 12 steps treatment, they are moralising alcoholism, and AA is at best a support group. I would have not have gained such a deep understanding of my problems if I had simply worked the steps, and have not needed to return to a support group after feeling so much relief after counselling from a very experienced non 12 step professional. I have over 7 years alcohol free now so it seems to have worked.

    Thanks for posting this, it is important that we say what works for us, as although some do well in groups such as AA, most people benefit from things such as CBT today. Things such as step 4 can actually make things worse for many, and destroy self confidence, as can the powerless concept.

    We are all different, and need to find a suitable solution, not simply, a one size fits all method based on religion.

    • Tom April 2, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

      They are all about morals regarding everything *other* than the act of drinking, which is the one action a person with an alcohol addiction should realize is something they have *power* over and is a bad *choice*.

      I remember when I first got into AA, I was really glad to have found a solution, and I felt optimistic. I was meeting people, getting healthy, etc. Within 18 months or so, same here, I was totally depressed.

      Now I understand why I liked AA at first: my ADDICTION loved it! It was giving me an excuse to ‘relapse’ any time I wanted, not my fault as long as I kept going to meetings and working the program!

      I now think that 12-step programs are some of the most dangerous ideas you could give to a person with an addiction. Those ideas will keep the addiction alive indefinitely! Since they do it ‘one day at a time’ and ‘never by themselves’ people in AA will never truly be able to think of themselves as just people who don’t drink because of their own wise decision.

      It’s especially bad because they scare you into really trying to internalize the belief system or die, so it can be difficult to shake the disease concept, even after you stop going to AA, unless you consciously deprogram yourself and thoroughly reject what clearly doesn’t work.

  8. Belle March 31, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    before, when i saw an anxiety specialist to deal with fear of flying, i came out of there ‘fixed’ enough to fly again after 5 hrs. I was so relieved. i’d been fucked up afraid for 3ish years. 5 hours. i wasn’t cured, but i could fly again. i used to say to anyone who’d listen, which wasn’t many, “there’s isn’t a problem that a man in a room and $150/hr couldn’t fix.” Now i’m sure it’s $200/hr. and he’d be a girl. but still.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl March 31, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      Haha. Well, mine was sliding scale–pretty reasonable at about I can’t even remember, $50/session? There are so many options for who you go to, and often, they can help you to simply see *what you already know,* just from a different frame. Thank you, Belle, and glad you can “fly!” 🙂

  9. Antique Sparrow March 31, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I saw a counselor on a sliding scale for a while. She was 12-step all the way. I tried to keep an open mind, but it just didn’t make sense to me. I need coping skills! I finally have some insurance and I discover that it will only pay for 12-step based programs. The attitude that there is only one right way to quit drinking makes me crazy!

  10. Theresa March 31, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Bravo. As an addiction counselor your self assessment and awareness makes me believe in what I do, or try to do. Believe me I’ve dealt with clients struggling with their addiction at different stages of motivation to change. At the end of the day you can’t ignore the underlying hurt, or hole in the heart or soul, if you really want to tackle additive behaviors. See Gabor Mate about this. Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. All the best!

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