My approach to therapy is not a one size fits all. As long as I see someone is in the right place to work with me, I adapt my way of working to each client’s unique change process.
It’s not about stopping!
To be clear, helping people stop addictive behaviour is not the primary focus of my work. Although addictive behaviours often resolve themselves as a result of the work I do with my clients. What I am interested in is helping people find their way back to themselves and their own autonomy. So many people are lost in life. I like to help them find their way home. I choose addiction as a focal point because I have a lot of personal experience in this area. I know addiction’s workings very well! Like relationships, self-esteem, and anxiety, addiction is something that most people struggle with at some point in their lives.
Addiction is commonly seen as excessive and dysfunctional use of alcohol and drugs. In reality, addictive behaviour is anything we compulsively continue doing to relieve ourselves of life’s burdens, despite the harmful consequences. Addiction can be many things. Ultimately it is more about the relationship than the behaviour or substance.
Most of us see addiction as a problem, rather than the surface symptom of a deeper and more pervasive issue that impacts us all in different ways.
The lost connection
The problem is not addiction. The problem is that we have lost connection to ourselves. Addiction is just one way of making life bearable when faced with such painful and overwhelming loss. Losing connection with ourselves is terrifying and traumatising. It is the loss of many essential things, including security, intimacy, and the capacity for self-reflection. In this loss, the core belief “I am not enough” is formed. In losing connection with ourselves, we will do everything we can to connect with something that brings respite, even if its side effects are toxic and erosive.
There are many other coping strategies. When we cannot be ourselves, we must still find a way to live in the world. Overachieving, over-grooming, people-pleasing, perfectionism, cosmetic surgery, and over-consuming are a few. Procrastination, other-esteem, over-eating, staying in abusive relationships, depression, and poor self-care are others. All of these coping strategies can also become addictions.
We lose connection with ourselves for many reasons. Primarily it comes back to the environments in which we are raised not providing enough of a safe space for self-origination. To become our authentic selves, we need to live with open-minded curiosity and willingness to learn. We need nurturing and supporting during our early years, and skilful guidance and initiation to transition into adulthood. We need to know how to persevere and overcome our struggles and develop our strengths into resources.
Most of us do not get these essential needs met! At best, most of us get conditional love and acceptance that depends upon us adopting certain behaviours, beliefs and values. That’s if we are the lucky ones! If we are less fortunate, we may face emotional, mental, and physical abuse! We may face broken homes, poverty, and not having much of a chance in life!
Instead of taking the journey our souls agreed to, we live in a kind of survival adaptation. We do whatever is necessary to be accepted by those around us just to survive!
Somehow, if we look back with enough awareness, we knew who we were within ourselves at a very young age. Maybe this knowing wasn’t fully matured or formed, but in some way we knew! For most of us, it simply wasn’t possible to express ourselves freely. Our growth was stunted from the beginning, and we never stood a chance!
One of the first things people see when they visit my website is my strapline “Ending Addictions. Changing Lives”. This is what I help my clients do. Although it’s usually the other way around. Perhaps my strapline should say “Changing Lives. Ending Addictions.” Create the right kind of change, and there’s not enough left of the old you for addiction to cling to!
Most people think they need to stop addictive behaviour before any other positive changes can happen. I understand this belief. However, for most people, it is an unhelpful obstacle to finding freedom from addiction. It assumes that addiction is an obstacle on the path. In reality, addiction is the path!
To find freedom from addiction, the only thing I have found that works is self-acceptance. I am not talking about conditional self-acceptance “As long as I stop addictive behaviour, I accept myself!” I am talking about radical, unconditional self-acceptance “Even if my addictive behaviours never stop, I fully accept myself as I am. I am enough as I am!”
Let that sink in for a moment…
Self-acceptance cannot be forced. It’s not a mindset you can decide to adopt or train yourself into. Self-acceptance happens as a result of coming into alignment with who you really are. Alignment occurs through the processing and healing of old wounds and showing up for ourselves in the way we wish our parents, peers, and elders had.
As you progress, the backlog of unprocessed emotional material, that has been a barrier between you and your authentic self-expression, begins to dissolve. Over time you will experience the freedom to be who you want to be in this one precious life. From here, addiction slowly falls away because you are no longer in need of it, and whatever attachment you once formed with it is gone!
An Incredible Journey
My approach is not a quick fix. My clients frequently work with me for 6 months. Some clients work with me for a year. Some work with me over multiple years. If all you want is to simply stop addictive behaviour without examining other aspects of your life, I understand that. However, this is probably a sign that I am not the right therapist for you. There are plenty of therapists who will support you in that. I am not one of them!
Addiction is not a problem to be shut down, disowned, or buried in the shadows. Doing this will only yield short-term gains, while the familiar strains, struggles, and fears persist! As I see it, addiction is a signpost towards an incredible journey of healing and transformation that is waiting to be taken. Ultimately it is a journey home to yourself. Most people don’t take this journey because they are unaware of the possibility. Others do know about it, but feel unable to go it alone!
If you are ready for this incredible journey in which you reclaim who you are and what your life stands for, then I am happy to be your guide! I offer no guarantees other than my best attention to your process. If you can also give your best attention to your process, positive change is the most likely outcome of the work we do together!