Many clients enter treatment with the affect of an abusive history, usually dating back to childhood. They speak safely, avoid eye contact, and tend to isolate themselves. This is how they learned to take care of themselves in their abusive, chaotic environment. “If they don’t know I’m here, if they can’t see me or hear me – they can’t hurt me.”
At 5-o’clock tonight, the bars will be full of these people. They have discovered how easy it is to hide in a bottle, where they are temporarily free from an abusive spouse, employer, coworker, family member, or so-call friend who continually takes advantage of them. Their lives are miserable, and the alcohol dulls the pain.
Helping these alcoholics lean how to stand up for themselves is a primary function of treatment. This is approached by encouraging clients to confront others who take advantage of them and do not offer mutual respect and support. When a situation like this becomes apparent to staff, they will encourage the client to confront their peer in the group process. The client usually panics and states “I can’t do that.” Individual therapy will be focused on how the client can learn to stand up for themselves in the safety and support of the group. They are made aware of the importance of taking care of themselves as a large part of recovery. They are encouraged to face up to others and taught how to find the courage to do so.
Today, I was reminded why I do what I do.
A young woman who saw herself as a “nobody” when she entered treatment was instructed by the staff to call out her roommate who had been giving her orders on what to do. I watched as she sat in group, anxious and fearful but determined. She had decided to trust the staff and the process. We made eye contact and I saw the fear taking control. “Come on, you can do it,” I said to myself as she slowly raised her hand to speak. She confronted the abusive roommate by telling her about the behaviors she used around her and how that made her feel. She asked the roommate to stop these behaviors and show her some respect. The fear gave way to composure and I knew that important progress had been gained. Bu then, it got even better. The peer, fighting back her anger, asked to respond. “Here comes the denial,” I thought. But no, this client was working on what sh needed to do in finding her recovery. She acknowledged the behavior, apologized for it, and offered to work on the relationship. After group I saw them talking and laughing together.
You know, if this keeps up, the Happy Hour Group will be getting smaller…..where will you be at 5-o’clock?