The Space Between Stimulus and Response

Reflections on addictions counseling and creating change

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

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As we all do, I have certain values that are near and dear to me. I am pretty conscientious and I value accepting responsibility for my own behaviors and choices, and the Serenity Prayer (adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous) embodies this ideal. I also believe strongly in “live and let live,” meaning I try to accept the choices and traits of other people. Everyone has her own journey. In every situation, every conflict that affects me, I have a role. And if I can see my role, then I empowered. If I choose to blame others, then I relinquish my own power. The courage to change the things I can also has a lot of meaning to me, as I am only recently getting to a point in my life where I can take risks, even in the face of anxiety, and be proactive.

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. As in Step Ten, I value the idea of taking a daily inventory. Did I live today according to the traits I value? According to what keeps me healthy and well? If not, how can I make it different tomorrow?

I have been taught through graduate school to seek out evidenced-based treatment, and though there has been little research to ascertain which elements of 12-step programs are effective, research indicates that involvement in a 12-step program seems to enhance treatment outcomes among those abusing alcohol and other substances (Emrick et al., 1993 in Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2012). Social support is a protective factor that underlies resiliency and psychological health. Addiction narrows people’s lives, such that interests and relationships not associated with use are given up. Individuals who have been using for some time often forget what they did and what they were like before use. Twelve-step programs assist individuals in developing new networks of support and new social outlets with people who will respect abstinence and who will understand the struggles of being in recovery.

I also understand that working through the 12-steps can facilitate self-growth and self-understanding. A client of mine recently said at her one-year anniversary that addiction was not simply in her alcohol and drug use, but rather in her attitude, her behaviors and her lifestyle. Recovery is about crafting a sustainable lifestyle that makes use less possible and less desirable. The twelve steps may help make individuals aware of patterns of relating to themselves and others that are unhelpful (e.g., harboring resentment). They may assist individuals in shifting their attitudes and taking personal responsibility. There are also other self-help programs that can facilitate such learning that are not based on the 12-Steps. I have very positive sentiments about Smart Recovery. Smart recovery offers group support and implements a curriculum focused on clarifying values and principles of REBT/CBT.


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