“Hi, my name is Randy and I’m an alcoholic and an addict.”
What exactly does that mean?
And what’s the first impression of the person hearing it?
Oh, he’s one of those people…or
He’s one of us…or
He sleeps under a bridge…or
He airs his dirty laundry in “groups” of people…or
He’s a liar…or…
What is it about this declaration that’s so powerful and causes such strong responses?
Speaking Two Languages
At the beginning of addiction treatment, the client’s willingness to make this declaration can be the gateway to tremendous healing. On the other hand, it also holds the potential for major misunderstanding, which can derail the healing process before it gets started.
Problem is, when someone makes this statement they are speaking two different languages at the same time.
The first language belongs to the generally agreed upon, socially accepted realm. It conveys basic cultural understandings of “alcoholic” and “addict.”
The second language belongs to the realm of implied, hidden and opinionated meanings. It’s the language of the shadow, which is constructed from all our personally biased judgements.
This second language is where the problem occurs. Because when the statement is spoken, all of someone’s implied meanings are going along with it, and rarely do the speaker’s implied meanings convey everything clearly for the listener. We’ve opened the door to interpretation, which invites a thousand problems.
When I say or hear “addict” or “alcoholic,” the following come to mind:
- hiding of trauma
- facade of bravado
Meanwhile, for my client, hearing those terms may conjure thoughts of:
- never getting better
- insurmountable odds
And my client’s family may think:
- a loser
- a victim
- a loser playing the victim
- a weak link in the family
What connotations and images do the terms bring up for you? Maybe…
- a bum begging for change on the street corner
- an angry old man
- sleeping in a cardboard box
- a food line
- the Salvation Army
- uncle “…” every Thanksgiving at “…’s” house
- loud, obnoxious, angry
- isolating, lonely
- something I’ll never be…
From this, we see there’s a pretty good chance the speaker’s shadow language will not coincide perfectly with that of the listener. And if the two participants in the conversation are practitioner and client, you’ve got a course of treatment headed for rocky roads.
A Different Way
This is one reason why Alchemist Recovery is different than most other approaches. We spend time at the outset establishing a clear, common language. We do this by going step-by-step through the first chapters of the Alchemist Recovery Workbook. We eliminate any shadow meanings that will hamper our progress in the form of guilt, shame or reinforcement of negative beliefs. This lays the foundation for successful, sustained recovery.
- Autumn: The Season of Letting Go - September 25, 2016
- A Rookie Mistake - September 5, 2016
- “Hi, my name is….. - July 20, 2016
- Once an addict…always an addict? - June 22, 2016
- An Invitation…and a Question: What is absolutely necessary? - June 13, 2016
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