The renowned trauma therapist and Vietnam War Veteran Glenn Schiraldi showed us through his years of work that onset of trauma is much higher when the adversity a person faces far out-weighs the resources they have (https://lindagraham-mft.net/the-resilience-workbook/ ). This is possibly why traumatic issues faced as a child seem to have a much longer lasting legacy than certain traumas faced as a adult. As a child we’re quite powerless over some of the adversities we face, we don’t know what lies beyond and we might not have a great deal of resilience to deal with life’s problems.
This balance between adversity and resources is something that seems to compound a lot of mental health problems and addiction issues.
As I’m writing this the world has been turned upside down from Corona Virus, COVID-19. Although I studied healthcare at Birmingham City University I’m no expert on the spread of viruses, in fact a lot of what I learned at university about the immune system and viral infections I have forgotten. My role over the last 13 years has been in the field of psychology and addiction. However, despite this one reoccurring theme in my work has been the careful balance between adversity and resources. If your adversities in life are high it can often feel very overwhelming, if you lack resources it can leave you feeling completely crushed.
A huge turning point in well-being is to help a person explore the possibilities of expanding their resources, to make them more aware of options and possibilities. If a person is able to achieve this through therapy it can be a remarkable turning point in their well-being.
When we stare at our problems head on it can be incredibly daunting. Life isn’t a bed of roses, we can’t just paint a smiley face over our problems and say everything is hunk-dory, sometimes life really sucks. We can end up “on our arse”, people die, people get sick, we lose relationships, we face rejection, we face intimidation, bullying, racial abuse, we lose money, we lose opportunities….etc. Sometimes these losses can be forever.
Pretty overwhelming isn’t it?
However, whenever we face crisis there is some opportunity also, we may have to accept some losses, we might have to capitulate over certain issues. It is fundamental that we build resources.
As counselor I always work in helping a client build their resources, no one ever sees me because they as having the time of their life, people see me out of crisis and pain. It’s important to get that right, it’s not easy attending counselling, you have to bare your soul, if you don’t get what you need you might never repeat the experience for some time (Egan 2010). Without becoming more resourceful a person will either regress back into their problems again or become absolutely dependent on a counselor to continually prop them up and give validation.
Resources Don’t Have to be Big Lofty Aspirations
Resources don’t have to be big grand dreams, they can be very little things that hold you and make you feel okay. In my work as an addictions therapist I can clearly see that addiction shares a lot of commonality with chronic depression, when under-stimulated those with addictive disorders seem to slip into a state of despair, a state which seems to say “take heart-attack inducing cocaine to feel better” or “risk total body decay through drinking, because this moment right now is just too difficult to bare”. Pre-Corona Virus I used to suggest to my clients to attend face to face SMART recovery meetings or get out and about more in healthy activities. Although the phrase “Connection is the opposite to addiction” has become a rather jaded maxim in the field of addictive disorders, it’s actually quite true, it can really change people’s moods, it can lift and individual quite dramatically. Now for the mean-time across the globe going to a recovery meeting, gym or fitness class isn’t going to be a possibility. That’s a huge loss!
Right now, across the face of the world there are millions of men and women who have an addictive disorder who are going to have to stew in their own juices in lock-down or isolation due to the corona virus. This is a devastating blow to their resources and they are going to face a huge adversity.
Addiction is a Killer
I don’t like “recovery by fear“, many limited skilled therapists or recovery coaches like to push the muzzle of the “you will die from you disease unless you get clean”-gun against the head of the trembling client, however, there is a reality to it. Many people will die from their addictive-disorder and on the way down it isn’t pretty, major losses, major hearbreaks and lots of adversity.
Recovery should be about growth and strength, reinventing one’s self. Not just about where you don’t want to be but where you would like to be.
However, that all being said if addiction remains untreated their is a very real possible risk of death. Already reports are coming in that those with addictive disorders may be very vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 and also the effects of their own addiction ( http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/topic-overviews/covid-19-and-people-who-use-drugs_en ) .
The problem of addiction will go on and will continue to go on no matter what is happening in the world, it is hugely unlikely to get spontaneously better and if not will get a lot worse if it continues to remain untreated.
The Time is Now
If you’re interested in building resources in a time of uncertainty I suggest you try to become as resourceful as possible. Reach out, get on google and start to plan how you can build these resources.
Egan G (2010) The Skilled Helper, 11th Edition,