Finding a New Life: Substance Use and How to Redefine Yourself
When people decide they want to redefine themselves, they must be willing to leave the past behind. The most accurate sense of redefinition–the transformation from one state to another–must be absolute, definite, and distinct. Many aren’t aware of how their family, friends, and neighborhood impact them. For change to occur, a person must be mindful of who they are and how they are affected by or affect others. Each person, each situation is different.
Change the Message
It is not until a person comes to terms with who they are and how society has shaped them that they can begin the work of redefining themselves. For example, those with a substance use disorder (SUD) who redefine themselves often abandon the values of the environment that fostered their substance use. Instead, they can adopt the values of a different community (church, a group or organization, etc.) to help support their recovery. Therapists have the unique privilege of listening to life stories and understand how core values define how clients see themselves. Unfortunately, people internalize what they hear, what they see, or lose themselves in others.
For a person to redefine themselves, they must change the message. Fundamental change begins when people realize that they need help and guidance in replacing unhealthy habits with healthy ones. Redefinition will only be successful if there is a deliberate and systematic effort to create change. Substance addiction treatment is a start to creating purposeful change. For many clients to redefine themselves, they had to see there is hope for a healthier life and learn the tools to become a different person. The process of change is slow, often challenging, but also rewarding. Through treatment like Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), clients can grow their self-worth while harnessing their strengths.
Change the Narrative
How a client uses their words makes a difference in how they perceive circumstances. For example, if a client relapses, they may ask themselves these questions:
- Did I deserve to lose my sobriety?
- What did I do wrong?
- How could I have prevented this?
These questions form a narrative. Questions that focus on only the problem can leave the person in a place of blame. For example, a person who relapses may blame themselves for a relapse and get stuck back in the past. James Pennebaker researched the effects of how often a person uses specific pronouns when discussing their experiences and found that when people use words like “I,” “my,” or “me,” they gravitate towards being self-aware, personal, or more honest than others. However, people who use pronouns that single out the individual may also be more depressed or prone to depression.
When in therapy, a client can benefit from redefining how they tell their experiences to others. Words like “understand,” “realize,” or “think” can help people cope and move forward. For example, if your client began treatment because they realized they needed help, redefine how they see their substance abuse. The act of recognizing and seeking help took them out of the circle of placing blame, feeling guilt, and repeating the cycle of substance use. They changed the narrative from personalizing their SUD to being productive.
Tips For Change
Treatment for addiction and substance use disorder is the chance for your client to redefine their life and how they tell it to others. At the same time, you work to guide your client through their treatment to replace specific words that can continue to harm with words that empower. For example, ask them to keep track of how often they think in “I,” “me,” or “my” terms and if they catch themselves thinking or saying those words, stop and reword their statement from being personalized to productive.
Life is, at times, messy, uncomfortable, and complex. Living through traumatic events like the death of a loved one or a divorce can challenge even the strongest person. The tendency to question why or state that something isn’t fair is normal. However, learning to accept that there is nothing one can do to change a past traumatic event is essential for acceptance and moving forward. When your client uses coping strategies like meditation or mindfulness to accept and acknowledge their feelings, they learn to redefine how they cope with difficulties.
Whether your client comes to therapy because they recognize that they need help to reclaim their sobriety, it is integral for them to accept and be comfortable with the truth of their SUD. Once they achieve truth and acceptance, they can use therapy to decide if there is a way to change the circumstances and seize the opportunity to redefine themselves through certainty and wisdom.
Redefinition can be scary, but it is possible. During this time, a person eschews the definitions that others push on them, whether it be parents, significant others, relatives, or government agencies, and works towards creating their own, new definitions. These acts of redefinition require your client to leave the past behind. The only part brought into the new person is the resolve to fight, change, and not believe another can define them.
Those who choose to leave the past behind are shifting from using the voice of personalized hurt, guilt, or shame to a voice of reflection, clarity, and action. When your client works with you to redefine who they are by changing their narrative, they benefit from your support and guidance. If you feel they are at risk because of a substance use disorder, you can help them by encouraging them to enter a substance addiction treatment program. Addiction treatments centers are not all equal. Alta Centers encourages their clients to find themselves through therapy and holistic methods of treatment. Our belief is like the Hollywood sign located next to our center–we provide hope for the future. We welcome all inquiries about our programs, philosophies, and any resources available to our clients. We at Alta Centers strive to work with you to integrate the steps needed to redefine life. Call us at (888) 202-2583.