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On the last track, we discussed the addict's three forms of internal resistance to change. The three forms of internal resistance to change are the fear of the pain of emotion, the fear of the inability to learn, failure, and unworthiness, and the belief that success is impossible.
On this track, we will discuss the reason that the first step in the 12-step program works for so many clients, as well as the Pushing the Right Button exercise and the "Ritual for Release" exercise.
As you probably know, the first step in the 12-step program is for the addict to admit that he or she is powerless over the addiction and that his or her life has become unmanageable. The first step works because it makes the addict stop denying the problem. The first step aids the addict in confronting the four forms of denial that he or she may be dealing with. The four forms of denial I have encountered are grandiosity, blaming self, blaming others, and despair.
Gary, age 33, was a math teacher at a junior high school in an inner-city neighborhood. Gary had begun drinking alcohol and smoking pot to cope with the chaos at his job. At his school, students had weapons, teachers were threatened, and they had to have armed guards in the halls. Gary stated, "It’s a miracle when I can actually get my kids quieted down enough to teach them anything! I’ve got to smoke pot and drink just to get to sleep at night. Who wouldn’t drink with what I have to put up with?" Gary was in denial that he had a problem. He blamed others – the stress from students and the school environment – for his addiction.
As you know, because of denial, many addicts will not be motivated to try recovery only until they have hit bottom. In Gary’s case, bottom was a night when he got so stoned and drunk that he decided to cool off in a pond in a park near his school. By the time Gary got out of the pond, his clothes were long gone. He stated, "There I was, buck naked in the middle of the night in one of the city’s – shall we say – less than desirable neighborhoods. In fact, at that very moment I could barely make out a gang of kids coming toward me."
Gary believed he was incredibly lucky, because when the kids got close enough to see that he was naked, they decided not to attack him. Gary left the park by flagging down a police car. The officers put him in a raincoat and dropped him off at a detox center. Gary said, "After that, I was ready to recover. Damn, I was ready. The first step was a snap. All I had to do was remember that night in the park to remind me of powerlessness and unmanageability."
Hitting bottom for Gary meant that the night in the park caused him to stop denying that the pot and alcohol were creating problems in his life. As you are all too well aware, he had to admit that they were not helping him cope with the neighborhood in which he taught. For other addicts, as you are aware, it can be other events that convince them that they have hit bottom – the loss of a relationship, a drunk-driving arrest, bankruptcy and so on. With your clients who are fading in and out of denial, you might consider using the techniques of "Pushing the Right Button" and "Ritual for Release."
Three Step 'Pushing the Right Button' Exercise
Gray had mentioned on several occasions listening to music, so he could relate to this visualization.
5-Step 'Ritual for Release' Exercise
I then talked Gary through the five steps of the "Ritual for Release" exercise.
-- 1. First, I asked Gary to stand with his legs shoulder-width apart and planted solidly on the ground. I stated, "Your arms should be loose at your sides. Your body should feel relaxed but balanced and strong."
Do you have a client like Gary who has just started a 12-step program? Would your Gary benefit from a stress relief technique like the Pushing the Right Buttons exercise or the Ritual for Release exercise?
On this track we have talked about Step One and denial. We also discussed the stress relief techniques "Pushing the Right Button" and "Ritual for Release."
On the next track, we will discuss how some feel 12 step programs can actually impede the addict’s growth toward independence and a 13th step.
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