Seeking help with addiction and mental illness is hard. It requires strength and humility and courage. It requires a willingness to fight. Unfortunately, it also requires a willingness to experience various indignities and push through them.
Addiction and mental illness are, for a variety of reasons, quiet ailments unless you are living them personally. They are also complicated, needing complex treatment. Because of the secretive nature of our illnesses, many people, even those medically trained, misunderstand how to work with those of us who have to occasionally visit them.
Indignity of Addiction
Addiction is not a dignified disease. As anyone who has experienced intoxication, either personally or as a witness, knows, behavior changes under the influences. People who live with addiction know that sometimes, our behavior can be troublesome and damaging. Many of us have had what is commonly known as “the morning after.” It is a common trope in American entertainment but for those of us who have gone through it, especially when those “mornings after” involve having to face embarrassing or hurtful memories or the evidence of actions we might completely remember.
Addiction can sometimes manifest in challenging behaviors. For people who sometimes lose touch with reality or are experiencing paranoia, simply seeking the attention we need to live healthy and productive lives is a challenge. Often, when we do seek that attention, we are in crisis. That means that we might be loud. We might be under the influence. We might not understand what is happening. In fact, we might have been forced to get treatment by law enforcement which leaves us confused, frightened and maybe even combative.
Often, going to an emergency department involves answering invasive questions, being forced to give up clothing for paper scrubs and being locked in stripped-down rooms with limited interaction or support, sometimes for days. When we do get interaction, it is often from medical professionals, who are honestly overworked and often lack the skills to be effective caretakers. Because they are overworked and undertrained, sometimes our exchanges with them are curt or adversarial.
Even for those of us who are not in crisis, admitting that we have lost control of our lives to addiction, is undignified. For many of us, it seems like a weakness. It leaves us vulnerable. We mistakenly think that if we can hide the damage, the unseemly behavior then it didn’t happen. Lies and deceit, even, especially, to ourselves is the foundation of addiction.
Seeking Help and Regaining Dignity
It is important for those of us looking to change our lives to accept the reality of the situation. One tool for recovery is Radical Acceptance. In other words, the ability to acknowledge that the situation is less than perfect, embarrassing and infuriating even, and accepting that there is nothing to change it in the short run is vital.
However, it is imperative for people to claim what dignity they can in these conditions. If possible, people should bring an ally with them. Someone who can offer an objective viewpoint and help maintain calm. A go-between who can communicate with the medical staff and the patient with a little distance, helping both sides reach a more equitable and therapeutic result. This intermediary can serve as a follow-up, taking notes for the patient, helping get further services after the crisis has passed while giving the staff someone they can identify as “stable,” and “trustworthy” to speak with. While this kind of stigma and prejudice is less than optimal it is the reality even in the medical field. Having an intermediary can reduce the stress of having to deal directly with people lacking the empathy and skill to deal with those experiencing this kind of illness, allowing for a quicker return to everyday life.
The difficult part of finding an ally is locating someone who can not only advocate for the person beginning recovery but speak truth to that person as well. Allies are integral to recovery. In 12-Step programs, the Sponsor fills this need. Even in other, non-12-Step programs, people can find a mentor of some kind. Allies can be family or trusted friends. They can even be professionals or volunteers with organizations. Allies help safeguard one’s dignity. No one recovers alone.
While some of the things we have done while active in addiction were humiliating and harmful, we can rebuild. We can become the people we always thought we could be, the people our loved ones remember. It seems contradictory, but the first step to regaining our dignity is accepting that the first step will likely involve some level of indignity. Without first risking discomfort, we cannot grow into the life we deserve. Without dignity, there is no recovery. Ensuring it increases the chances of success.
At Fort Worth Recovery, we have the skills to help you find the dignity of sobriety. We use a complex set of tools to address the causes of addiction, the consequences of it and can help rebuild. Call us today at 844.332.1807.