ACA Blog

Jun 19, 2012

Self-Love as Relapse Prevention

[caption id="attachment_4859" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jennifer Bingaman"][/caption]

About 90 days ago, I had a client who was barely of age sit in front of me and tell me intimate details about how he fell into opiate addiction. It started as most drug addictions do – with the gateway drugs – but it also started with another common theme we rarely talk about as a motivator for addiction; self-love.

At first, it was intimidating for me. I was working with someone incredibly young who had become addicted to the little blue pills that are ravaging Florida by the thousands – oxycodone. A pill used for pain management, I’m seeing more people come through these doors trying to manage their emotional pain with this “legal” drug than with any real markers of physical pain. If the physical pain is present, it is almost always a secondary motivator for falling into the trap of opiate medication use and abuse.

Today, that young client who sat before me in the grips of one of the most addictive habits I have seen is on his way to being discharged. He’s been sober for three months, he’s talking of dreams to get a master’s degree, and he has also discovered one of the strongest repellents to addiction. He loves himself these days.

It’s been an amazing process to watch and participate with in the therapy process. At my internship, we focus on brief therapeutic interventions like relapse prevention, psychoeducation about addiction, and short-term therapy to address immediate needs and concerns. With this client, I was afforded the opportunity to dig a little deeper and work on what I see as the core of every addict’s problem – a lack of self-love.

As someone oriented in CBT, I usually look at my clients’ thoughts about themselves. Every time we dig a little deeper, the client tells me he finds himself unworthy of happiness, health, love, safety, and sobriety. When I begin to work on these issues with my clients, I find we circumvent the addiction and turn around to face it head-on. We face it with confidence and feelings of self-efficacy in session.

In doing so with this client, I find that no matter what issues approach or what instances occur in treatment, the client expresses feelings of acceptance, understanding, and resolve. This client has made such incredible progress in his own self-regard, I can’t help but be a little proud of how far he’s come for his own sake. He really has done the work.

So yes, oxycodone is one of the worst and most addictive drugs I’ve seen in my time working with addicts. Yes, addiction is a terrible disease characterized by relapse. Yes, more often than not, clients don’t make it to a life of sobriety after their first treatment attempt. Yes, my client is young and still has a lot left in his life to challenge the man he is becoming.

So what? I can’t sit here and think about all of the things needed to temper the extraordinary progress this client has made in three short months. I am grateful that I got to walk this path with my client as long as I did and I feel accomplished as a helping professional. I can’t think of the future, I can only appreciate this day for what it is – an amazing accomplishment for my client. It’s really the best I hoped for when entering the world of addictions treatment. Not only am I glad to see my client sober, but I am happy that he has overcome hurdles and impediments to show himself some love and stay sober this long. It’s a good day.

Jennifer Bingaman is a counselor-in-training and freelance writer. She blogs about her experiences as a client and a counselor with a few life musings thrown into the mix at

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