As you may have noticed from my posts, I truly believe that I am living my purpose by “paying it forward” and aiding others on their journey through recovery. And it’s incredibly rewarding work walking with someone as they grow and develop, and begin (re)find their personal power. Coaching in the realm of recovery is truly remarkable and over the last few months I have seen incredible transformations in a few of the people I have been blessed to work with. But of course there are also tough cases that don’t always end up the way I hope, but that cannot detract from the forward-focused, solutions-driven nature of the work I am doing. Yet, the mainstream approach to treatment and aftercare in South Africa is based on the 12-step program and the idea that addiction is a disease. And there are parts of that theory that I can relate to, especially the fact that genetics can play a large part in whether or not someone has a tendency towards substance abuse.
What I cannot buy into is that we are “sick” forever, never free of the malady of addiction. I have met brilliant people in my life who are afflicted by substance abuse, but are smart, funny, educated, wonderful people that do not deserve to be simply labeled with the term addict. And lets face it, it’s a stigma! But substance abuse disorders are not all the same and even the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) places them on a continuum from mild to severe. So throwing everyone into the addict pot does nothing to aid the healing process, but simply labels people based on an outdated and destructive stereo-type. And in this model sits the traditional treatment and recovery approaches, wherein people are made to believe that sick they are and sick they will stay. But each person I meet in is so much more than their disorder and when participating in coaching within the paradigm of wellness and positive psychology, it is amazing to see how people embrace their recovery when they are internally motivated by the knowledge that they are in a place of wellness.
By focusing on what is right, rather than what is wrong, people make enormous, visible progress. By visible I mean going from hopeless to optimistic, unemployed to actively seeking employment or back in the work place, healing mentally and physically, being present and conscious in their personal relationships and not living in constant fear of relapse! It’s an incredible process to be part of because the decisions are made by the client and the short-term strategies and long-term objectives are developed by the individual. The coach simply holds a safe space and uses powerful questions to guide the client towards their truth. So instead of living under the cloak of addiction, clients are encouraged to embrace their wellness and recovery and move forward. Dwelling in the past is not encouraged and neither is wallowing in the hopelessness of the disease model. Because in my opinion if you focus on the negative aspects and the constant possibility of relapse, well you probably know where I’m going with this thought… I’m not saying that relapses don’t occur, but by giving clients practical skills, tools and techniques to walk the road to recovery with confidence and self belief, relapse isn’t the focus of recovery, rather something that might happen. And like any challenge in life, if it does happen it is not because the client is weak and sick, but rather there is a need to refocus, reevaluate and redefine what is required to overcome this setback.
We all stumble on life’s journey, but living in a place of guilt and shame is not productive or fulfilling. Determining practical steps based firmly in the mature emotions of joy, fear, anger and sadness and not letting the childlike emotions of guilt and shame attach themselves to our experiences, is a primary focus of recovery coaching. By learning to acknowledge how we feel by checking in with ourselves and others and expressing our feelings, is an adult approach to life. Feeling sad or angry does not need to be negative when the reasons behind these emotions are addressed and understood. Fear is a protective emotion and joy cannot be sustained indefinitely without the other emotions being part of the balance.
By being present, conscious and adult in our feelings and determining actions and plans that work for us, we can live in a place of wellness and choose how we wish to be seen. I sure as hell don’t think that we need to be stigmatised but the term “addict”, because we are much more than that and can never be defined by a single term. So in closing I’d like you to take a few minutes and decide who you want to be, free of the addict label. What are your desires, dreams and passions? What drives, motivates and inspires you? Who are you?
As for me, I’m Leigh-Anne. Coach, educator, dreamer, partner, lover, friend, sister, daughter. I am an empowered woman who is passionate about the work I do and aiding others through helping them to discover their own purpose, values, dreams and aspirations. And I am filled with gratitude that I have got to a place in my life where I truly understand my own value and purpose.