The Importance of Connection in Addiction Rehabilitation by Laura Chapman

Rehabilitation treatments for addiction in this day and age often focus solely on the person seeking to overcome addiction. Some people assume that those who fall prey to substance abuse or alcoholism ‘fit a certain psychological profile’; others attach shame and stigma to what in reality, is a disease needing treatment like all other illnesses. In a fascinating article, Helen M. Farrell, M.D. (an award-winning Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychiatry) notes that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, if not connection. Dr. Farrell, who boasts many years’ experience in addiction treatment, notes that she has observed two main factors over the years:
  1. Hitting rock bottom is of no use at all. Those who claim that at an addict has to ‘lose it all’ before realizing they have a problem and obtaining help, are mistaken. Rather than hitting a desperate point, it is important to that recovering addicts find ways to connect with people who can provide much stronger connections than alcohol and drugs could ever do. Recovering addicts should be encouraged to mend and strengthen the relationships that mean something to them.
  2. Addictions tend to fill a need; they become the most important relationship to the afflicted person. If we can help recovering addicts realize that alcohol and drugs are fulfilling a specific role, we can give them hope that there are healthier relationships out there that can provide a much more useful source of connection. Farrell notes that although therapy and medication are useful during the rehabilitation process, ultimately, the true path to healing is forged by effort and an investment in other human beings.

Farell says that she has witnessed beautiful moments of fellowship and connection at many addiction and recovery events. In group therapy, men and women share their stories, their disappointments, hopes and dreams. Far from being a negative lot, they hope to lead a normal, fruitful life, surrounded by colleagues, friends and family.

She adds that she has met many patients who have found their way back to their friends and family—some have started businesses, others wish to share experiences or introduce medical staff to their families. Like all major challenges, 
addiction can best be overcome when we feel that we are part of something greater than ourselves, and when we know that there are people waiting for us to join them on the fascinating journey that is life.

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Laura Chapman has been a previous guest contributor. Her previous contribution is "
Self Help and Self Discovery: A Story of Hope."