Addiction is a biopsychosocial disease. To achieve a lasting recovery, all aspects of the disease need to be addressed.
Codependence occurs when individuals are controlled by the addicted person’s behavior. Codependence is a kind of addiction around a relationship and typically involves enabling behaviors by the codependent that are promoting sickness, both in themselves and the addicted service member.
Family Systems in Addiction
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence acknowledges addiction as a family disease that impacts the stability of the home, the family's unity, mental health, physical health, finances, and overall family dynamics. To address this, the M-IOP incorporates a family night into its treatment strategy that allows clients to invite family and support group members into treatment.
Trust is a fundamental component of any effective addiction treatment. With M-IOP clients this component becomes critical and a lack of trust is often associated with previous failed treatment attempts. M-IOP leverages the camaraderie found between those who have served and the shared experiences of living with addiction to rapidly generate the trust required to move forward in treatment.
The isolative nature of addiction works to exacerbate communication issues between the already compartmentalized lives of our M-IOP clients. The M-IOP group setting provides a space where clients learn the value of processing these experiences in a healthy manner.
Incongruence of Self
Honor, courage, commitment, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity, devotion, excellence, professionalism, and dedication—these are the core values of our military, law enforcement and first responder personnel. They have dedicated their lives to uphold these ideals. For those who serve, these principles go far beyond any corporate “mission statement,” they are the way they approach the world. The M-IOP group process assists clients in finding parallels between these core values and the principles of 12-Step recovery and in doing so learn to live an authentic life once again.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Clients who attend our M-IOP report a higher prevalence of symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Untreated PTSD can be devastating to service members and their families. Studies show that while self-medicating with drugs and alcohol may initially provide temporary relief, misusing substances will eventually exacerbate PTSD symptoms because the affected individual does not properly process the traumatic experience. Recovering from PTSD may take years and while PTSD is not the primary focus of the M-IOP, it does acknowledge trauma as a component and helps provide healthy coping skills that may lay the foundation for effective future treatment.
Changing People Places and Things
In recovery, people are often asked to change people, places, and things to distance themselves from triggering situations. For many of our M-IOP clients the nature of their occupation makes this insulating intervention difficult. The collective experience of our group members allows access to successful interventions that can be used to navigate the day-to-day challenges that service members face.
Anger and Resentment
Anger can be a devastating relapse trigger as well as a challenging defense to work with in treatment. M-IOP clients learn to recognize the warning signs of oncoming anger and how to use calming techniques to deal with those situations in a positive manner.
As M-IOP members start taking care of their emotional needs again in sobriety, emotions they may have been dulling for years tend to re-emerge. Emotions often trigger physical responses linked to the reward circuit in the brain. Understanding what feelings people experience when they are triggered may help. Mindfulness practices like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises can put patients more in touch with their mind and body, helping them recognize triggers when they become active.
Many of our M-IOP clients suffer from a lack of self-esteem. Assertiveness is closely related to self-esteem. When clients choose the path of recovery from addiction, they often need to rebuild self-esteem and that includes relying on their own assertiveness.
Guilt and Shame
In the early stages of recovery, many M-IOP members are tormented by feelings of guilt and shame as they finally realize the hurt they caused themselves and their loved ones. This tends to cause negative feelings that are unhelpful for recovery. The key to overcoming feelings of guilt and shame is to acquire coping skills that enable patients to work through these feelings and use this process to strengthen their recovery.
Studies show that women who misuse substances are less likely than men to seek help. They are often the main caregivers in their family, taking care of children and sick relatives. Using drugs and alcohol to get relief from painful emotions when they are expected to take care of the family carries a strong stigma. Often, trauma caused by domestic violence or sexual abuse is the driver behind addictive behaviors. Men have gender-specific issues, too. Males often start using drugs at an earlier age and are statistically more likely to engage in binge-drinking. Many men have been brought up to assume they have to be strong in all situations. This may interfere with their ability to be open and honest in addiction treatment.
Common Fears in Early Recovery
Recovery requires courage and determination. There are many fears to conquer: the fear of feeling unwell without drugs or alcohol, the fear of change—even if it is a change for the better, the fear of feeling again after years of suppressing unwanted negative feelings with substances. There is also the fear of failing at recovery after many perceived failures in the past.
Grief and Loss
The life of a person in active addiction is completely focused on substance misuse or behavioral addiction. Radically changing that situation can be experienced as a loss even though a dangerously unhealthy behavior is abandoned. This loss may be processed in a grief-like manner. The grief process and recovery share important similarities. Both start with denial and are only resolved in the acceptance stage.