The second day of our weekend workshop focused on Addiction; what it is, how it affects a person, and how it can be overcome.

It was very interesting to see how attitudes have changed towards drug use over the years; in particular a handout about opium usage over the years surprised me a lot. I would not have guessed that opium was on sale to the general public in 1800! And likewise, the quiz about drugs over the years was quite eye-opening – I assumed that drugs were a modern problem – but I greatly underestimated how long they’ve been around.

I have suffered with addiction in various forms throughout my life, and when it was explained as a near-uncontrollable craving, seeking and use of a substance, a drug, alcohol, or partaking of a particular activity, predicated on by a strong emotional and/or psychological dependence that is beyond voluntary control, coupled with a preoccupation and compulsive use of these emotionally numbing elements, regardless of the adverse consequences… A lot of things clicked into place for me. I have always known I have been addicted to various different substances and behaviours, but put this way, it helped me understand what was really going on all those times.

I feel that the assessment that it is 50% genetic predisposition and 50% poor coping skills rings true to a point, but also that previous experiences can enhance or detract from the genetic predisposition. In a way, it could be that it is 50% unconscious bodily sensations or desires, and 50% conscious coping skills, or a lack thereof. Trauma is basically an extreme reaction to a survival mechanism that is stored at an unconscious level in a person’s body, and indeed a lot of functions are performed unconsciously by the body. For example, It’s only when attention is paid to breathing that we feel we have to do it manually. Maybe addiction, or to be more accurate, the bodies desire for addictive loops, is developed through our experiences when we were younger. It may be pure speculation on my part, but it is fascinating when you build up these theories as you grow up and witness life unfolding in front of you, then you read something that is seemingly unrelated and suddenly things fall into place. At this point they are just theories, wild ideas, but I enjoy writing and researching, and I think that alongside being a counsellor in the future I would like to keep an eye on developing theories, maybe even expand on and publish some of my own.

I thought Dotty was very brave to speak up about her own experiences with addiction like she did – it makes me wish I was able to work out a timeline of my life in such a way, so that I could present my past struggles in such a coherent way. As it is, whenever I try to convey my history with addiction, or even any aspect of my life, I don’t know where to start. I jump from point to point; I go off on tangents because I don’t feel I can explain such-and-such a part unless I have first explained something else, and even now I’m not sure where to go with it. Maybe I need to work on a complete timeline, solidify the events of my life, and the importance thereof, or just go over things in my head until they make sense.

Actually, I think that I may start my own personal counselling to do this. It’s strange to suddenly come to realise that I need the help of the vocation I am training towards. It’s kind of like a trainee plumber not realising that all the pipes in his house are leaking. I’m identifying a potential problem and setting out a solution. I do feel I need to get my own “house in order”, and “make my bed”, so to speak, before I can truly expect to help others do the same. I will need to have personal counselling when I do the Level 4 course next year, so I may as well get a head-start. If it will benefit me now, then it will definitely be worth it. Plus, I like the idea of seeing just how a professional counsellor goes to work – I’m curious to experience being counselled first-hand. Our roleplays in class only go so far to recreating that intimate relationship.

As well as Dotty’s revelations, Steve, Rupert and Colin’s little chats were also very interesting, especially Colin likening addiction to something that sits on your shoulder, waiting for a moment of weakness. It’s good to have that suit of armour to protect you. Ultimately, I didn’t feel like I contributed to the group discussions much, but I did learn a lot about addiction that I didn’t know, especially how it relates to me and my past, and how it has impacted me over the years. I think the day helped me, maybe more than everyone in the group realised.

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