15 Mar Escaping from Yourself: Are You Avoiding the Work of Therapy?
Low self-esteem can masquerade as martyrdom and selfless service to others while neglecting your own needs and desires. In your extremely busy life, you seem to make time for everything that matters to you – substance abuse recovery, helping a friend in need, setting aside time to serve others, and putting others’ needs first before your own. Altruism is noble, but if you are consistently pushing aside your own needs because someone else’s happiness is more important than your own, then you are avoiding the responsibility of your happiness, even if you are currently participating in a recovery program at a dual diagnosis treatment center. Because you’re enrolled in a treatment program, you may have even fooled yourself into thinking that you are taking care of yourself, when in reality, the treatment program has become just one more thing added to your schedule to aid in escaping from yourself.
Neglecting the real work: homework and recovery
We can get so caught up in the craziness of our schedules but upon closer examination, we may discover that 95% of these activities that consume our time revolve around other people’s needs while we neglect our own and escaping from yourself. When your therapist gives you specific instruction, such as taking time out for yourself to do the work, perhaps in a quiet environment or somewhere in nature where you can focus on mindful meditation, you don’t “find time” because you’re always “running out of time.” We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so when you say that you don’t have time to do the homework that’s assigned to you, is it because you’re afraid to find out the answers that you’ve been avoiding?
Feeling “selfish” when you’re just doing what’s necessary
The point of being in recovery is to get well. Dual diagnosis treatment is about you – not your significant other, your family members or your job. When you get well, everything else falls into place, and your relationships will get better as your job performance improves. You will feel better, physically, emotionally and mentally. However, while you’re in recovery, are you inadvertently postponing your wellness by missing the signs of low self-worth? In other words, are you putting off the challenges given by your therapist who’s trying to help you raise your self-worth?
If you have identified areas of need with your therapist, such as the need to be heard, supported and validated, your counselor may have given you assignments that challenge the “creature of habit” within you. You have been so accustomed to living a certain way that you are not used to having your own voice. Perhaps in the back of your mind, you have been thinking to yourself:
• I haven’t taken a vacation in years. My workload is so heavy that if I take a vacation, I don’t want to come back to work with double, triple the workload waiting for me when I get back. Is the vacation worth it? I’m already so stressed out that I don’t want to create any more stress. But I’m so burned out that I know I need a vacation. (Are you afraid to ask for time off?)
• My colleagues or loved ones don’t really listen to me. When I try to say something, they always brush me off the phone or they get their point across without giving me much room to say my part. If I talk to them in person, they won’t listen anyway. (Are you afraid to ask for a face-to-face meeting during which you express yourself without interruption?)
• I’m starting to see certain problems pop up. I don’t want to make a big deal out of anything. I’ll just wait and see what happens. In the meantime, I don’t want to draw attention to it if I can fix it myself. (Are you afraid to ask for help?)
As you discuss your life issues with your therapist, it becomes evident to your counselor that you must address these problems by speaking up. They see a pattern in your behavior (or lack of action) that is a contributing factor to your recurring problems, but when they propose a solution which requires that you step out of your comfort zone, you’re paralyzed by fear, because deep down, you feel that you are not worth the trouble. You feel “selfish” in your own eyes, but when you talk about it with others, they don’t think it’s selfish of you to ask for what is rightfully yours. It’s a skewed perspective based on a frame of reference distorted by trauma and substance use.
Clinging to the Chaos: Addicted to Dysfunction
Despite what you might be complaining about, the comfort of staying the same is easier than the courage to make the change. What are you clinging to, and why do you cling to a situation that makes you so unhappy? When you weigh the pros and cons of drug addiction or an abusive relationship, you have a list of evidence that screams for “recovery!” but you’re having a really hard time wrapping your mind around change. When medical detoxification has cleared away the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol, you are faced with an emotional mirror into which you stare at your inner self, the self that yearns to be freed from mental and emotional prison. The therapist is there to help set you free, but you have the keys to open your own cage.
Self-care does not equate with selfishness: Believe you’re worth it!
Having grown up in a dysfunctional home ruined by drug and alcohol addiction, adults of addicted parents have learned to ignore their own needs and focus on the parent(s) who struggled with substance use. It’s second nature for these adults to put others before themselves. Though perceived as responsible and selfless, they also bury much resentment with substance use as they sweep everything under the rug, not realizing that their voice is just as important as everyone else’s. Along with low self-worth, they also carry the very heavy baggage of (false) guilt. They feel guilty for standing up for themselves. They feel guilty for anything that may benefit them, mistaking it for selfishness instead of self-care. This twisted sense of self-worth is intricately intertwined with the false sense of guilt, and this translates to weak boundaries.
With the help of skilled clinicians, people who have grown accustomed to burying painful emotions can emerge as confident individuals who find their voice in any situation. It takes a lot of practice replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, but through evidence-based practices such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, change is possible! New Method Wellness, a premier dual diagnosis treatment center handpicked by Dr. Phil, offers continuous support for clients and alumni throughout their lifetime.
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