Often we get asked by clients, “How can I stop this behavior?” Clients can tell us all the reasons they should stop the behavior, but they often overlook a key component for recovery. It is found in one word, “friendship.” Certainly, there is more to recovery than just friendship, but it does play a vital role, since addictive behaviors create isolation. Over the years of acting out, one often loses contact and does less interaction with true friends. This leaves one alone. It is often just the person and the addiction—the addiction is the friend.
Elbert Hubbard remarked, “Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.” (Thinkexist.com)
When a client, who has an addiction, is meeting with me, “I ask the client to draw a circle and put a dot in the center. I say, “That dot represents you.” Who else is in the circle with you? Who is emotionally connected with you? Who can you go to and talk about the issues you are discussing with me?
I continue, “If someone is emotionally close to you and you can talk openly about your feelings, behaviors, dreams and goals, then we place another dot right next to your dot to represent that person. If the person is farther away, you can place the dot away from your dot. So let’s start with Mom and Dad. Where would their dots be in relationship to your dot?”
Let’s move to siblings and friends. Many times there are not very many dots next to the client’s dot. It is also surprising how many dots are outside the large circle. It makes sense because often the client with the addiction has few, “true friends.” In a very sad way, the addiction has become the best friend and all other friends have, to some degree, been alienated.
Often our friendships are just on the surface. We often lack deep, meaningful relationships that emotionally connect us. We don’t get much from reading just the first page of a book and then setting it down. We could read the first page of one hundred books and not gain much knowledge, insight or wisdom. Regarding reception-oriented social gatherings, C.S. Lewis observed:
“Meeting people in such settings is like reading only the first page of one hundred different books—very unfulfilling! All of us should strive, therefore, to have some friendships that are deep and solid—so solid, for instance, that if they were interrupted, the unfinished conversation could be resumed months later almost in mid-sentence, just as if we had never been apart.”
We might reach out and connect with our family members. We might connect with true friends from the past. We might make an effort to get to know others who live nearby. One important element for change is to expand our circle of true friends.
When clients are now living a sober life and on track to reach their goals, there are usually more dots inside their circle, close to the clients’ dot, that represents an expanded support system of true friends.
© 2013 Rod W. Jeppsen