15 January 2018

When I first arrived at ECR, although fully experienced and qualified, I thought I knew the true extent of addiction. How wrong was I! I was astounded at how friendly, honest, open and welcoming everyone was; a truly therapeutic environment.

I soon realised I had personally carried around guilt for fifteen years; thinking that I could have made a different choice, or said something else, to my heroin-addicted older sister. After years of being stolen from and involved in her chaos, I found myself realising when I became a mother myself that this could not go on anymore. I could no longer be around the devastation… but at the same time, I loved my sister. I found it incredibly hard but I gave her a choice: ‘Me or the drugs?’ She chose the drugs… It was not until I sat in an ECR group that I finally realised that she did not have a choice. She was an addict. Love was not as strong as that. Slowly I came to the point where I could see that I did the right thing. I had stopped enabling her and removed myself from the inevitable carnage of addiction. I made a decision to NOT SUPPORT THE DISEASE and to empower myself.

Now is different…

Now I can help her and others. Now I realise the full extent of the physical allergy, the mental obsession and the spiritual malady. It is crucial to differentiate between the person and their behaviours. I personally work the 12 Step programme on my addictive behaviours which has benefited my life and that of my children. It is an ongoing process of personal change which in time becomes a way of life and offers healing from the spiritual damage caused by addiction.

Fundamentally, recovery starts with a person stopping taking drink or drugs (detox), although little did I really appreciate the challenge a person faces to remain abstinent. I started in 1:1 therapy sessions hearing the extent of the devastation and carnage that had preceded a person’s life before arriving at ECR, both for the person themselves but countless others who had crossed their path. Emotional life is not a problem to be solved and yet people in recovery have a tendency to live as though it is. I did not hold any stereotypes of addiction so I was able to see the fearful and lonely person struggling to find any hope of a different future. I feel humbled every day to be a part of a recovering person’s journey to change their life.

Addiction is a matter of life and death, although with an attitude of honesty, openness and willingness they could overcome this.

The daily therapeutic groups blew me away with their powerful healing ability, based on people coming together with identification of each other and with a common goal of abstinence. Aside from the valuable information provided, people were faced with aspects of themselves deeply hidden with caring challenge and understanding. I would see people’s eyes light up when they realised there was a solution and there were tools that worked, where they had failed to see hope before. Addiction is a matter of life and death, although with an attitude of honesty, openness and willingness they could overcome this.

When a person became physically better their old behaviours can re-surface and it seems that they can start to sabotage their own chance of recovery. After a person has cleared their body from mind-altering substances, their feelings start to return and most people can find them frightening, or overwhelming, and do not know how to manage them. They can become closed-minded, feeling all-powerful again and believe they know what is best for them. They forget what got them into treatment and can try to manipulate their friends/family to agree with them. We need to work together to help the person. This is where I have seen ECR’s therapeutic community, both peers and staff members, come into their own. It cannot be adequately described, although being a part of a recovery community is imperative, as “the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel” (Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous, 1983). Within therapeutic groups, peers are encouraged to challenge each other’s denial, review their core belief systems and re-evaluate their own moral principles.

Challenging denial

Distorted thinking is a daily occurrence at ECR, hence why it helps to have people with addictive personalities who can see straight through it. Some may say, ‘It takes one to know one’. A person’s loved ones know more about a recovering person’s behaviours than they admit and whose honest feedback can prove to be an effective tool for challenging their denial. It helps if the communication with a person’s family/friends is open with ECR; to best support the individual.

When a person first arrives at ECR they can be desperate for help, open to support and agree to anything that will stop their internal suffering. Gradually as they start to feel better their lack of trust returns, their self-will rebuilds and they can become less than willing to do what is necessary to remain abstinent. By this point, they have been completing the Step presentation within the group, which are in such an order that they are actually facing the truth of addiction and where it has got them, so they may be challenging their old way of being and continue to do so.

ECR offer a treatment programme which is based on personal experience and knowing what works. Although the 12 Step programme is the basis of the solution offered, it is augmented with therapeutic tools/support to give a person a solid foundation for continued abstinence. Every person that arrives at ECR has an individualised Care Plan to take into account that person’s needs. They will be surrounded by individuals who are actively in recovery so they can see living proof that there is a solution available to them if they are willing. With a foundation of care and highly experienced staff members, the person has the opportunity to overcome the devastation and chaos of active addiction. ECR offer ongoing support post-treatment as we get invested in a person’s recovery.

ECR gives an intensive start for 12 Step recovery programme; showing a way of living in which principles are acted upon every day. Without a person continuing this process when they leave, they are at high-risk of relapse; returning to the destruction and devastation addiction entails.