Using Group Therapy
While individual counseling is valuable, the group therapy experience within a treatment program is central to the success of treatment.
Just as it is impossible to lie to a counselor who is a recovering addict, it is equally impossible to get away with deceit in a peer group.
And of course, cutting through the lies and the denial is the big issue.
When others with your problem are in daily contact with you, when they get to know you and begin to talk to you about yourself, they are in the best position to see through the veneer to what is really there—and to do it with compassion.
At the same time, the sense that you, in turn, are able to help them nourishes your self-esteem and your sense of your own worth as a human being.
The basic message learned from over a half-century of self-help group meetings is that mutual concern and mutual help are powerful tools.
In order to recover, you have to face certain realities— which the group can help you to see and accept.
One of these is that the person you have been since you became chemically dependent is a false self—egocentric, selfish, deceptive to others and to yourself.
A second reality is that the only alternative to recovery is further deterioration—and ultimately, death.
A third reality, and a cheering one, is that your “addicted self” is masking your real self, which is honest, kind, and genuinely open to others.
Recovery involves unmasking the inner, real self.
Overcoming “Terminal Uniqueness”
Something counselors always notice when a new member enters a therapy group, is that he or she tends to sit apart, to distance himself or herself from others.
The counselors know that what is going on in the new member’s mind is something like this” “I don’t really belong with this group. They’re alcoholics and addicts; I just have a drinking problem.”
Sometimes the thought is, “These guys are amateurs: beer drinkers and pot smokers. They don’t realize cocaine is the only way to go.”
Or: “These poor people really think some mysterious ‘power’ is going to solve all their problems. Not me. I’m going to do it myself. I’ve made up my mind; and when I make up my mind, nothing stops me.”
These thoughts that continue to push you farther away from the group, will push you farther away from connection and recovery.
All of this is what I call “terminal uniqueness.”
Nearly every chemically dependent person starts group therapy thinking he is somehow very different from everybody else. Any treatment program that doesn’t overcome this terminal uniqueness will usually fail. One of the first of many jobs— the “work”—to be done in group therapy, is to shake off that notion and begin to identify with the rest of the group.
Of course, each one of us has our individual character, history, and personality.
But we are all exactly the same in one respect: we’re suffering from the same condition.
The man who has come to treatment because his wife threatens to leave him and take the kids is in the same boat as the woman who beat her husband every time she got drunk.
The 20-year-old who hasn’t been able to keep a job because he was always high at work is very similar to the 60-year-old woman whose hands tremble and whose liver is scarred—the younger man just hasn’t had time to get there yet.
The executive on cocaine is brother to the 19-year-old girl who has been drinking a couple of pints of gin a day.
Drug addicts, even more than alcoholics, tend to think of themselves as special, glamorous, and “cool.”
What the therapeutic group can do—once the newcomer sees that connection—is to provide a same common purpose and understanding, in a positive, health-giving way.
Losing “terminal uniqueness” isn’t really a loss. When you accept that you and all other people with a dependency condition are alike, then you may begin to see that the fates or God or whatever hasn’t singled you out. You will begin to feel compassion for others with the same condition.
And with compassion comes a reduction in the selfish behavior so typical of addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse problem, please reach out to our addiction specialists for guidance and support, at (877)-RECOVERY or (877)-732-6837. Our addiction specialists make themselves available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because We Care.