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Language That Empowers

In today’s treatment programs, how often do we talk with addicts about what they want to gain in their lives, rather than what they must give up? Most group sessions focus on “abstinence” and the necessary “avoidance” of people, places, and things. Of course, these conversations are extremely important but talking about what sobriety can ADD to a person’s life is just as important, if not more so. This concept, which may appear obvious, is sadly overlooked.

Maia Szalavitz sheds light on this in her book, “Unbroken Brain.” Using her own first-hand experience with drug addiction, Szalavitz challenges the current treatment policies and asks humanity to look at addiction through a different lens. It was while reading her book that I began to see the deep-rooted flaws in our system.

If our goal is to help people recover from addiction, why do use negative language such as “you must give up your relationship with…” “you can’t go to that restaurant anymore…” “you must choose…” “you can’t do this, if you want that…”? Does this type of language motivate you to achieve a specific goal? For me, this language screams punishment, discipline and fear.

Now, what if we sat in a group session and changed the language; “what would you like to add to your life?” “What have you always dreamed of doing but never got the chance to?” “Recovery opens the door to a whole world of possibilities, passions, and dreams. Let’s all imagine our ideal lives.” This language screams positivity, motivation and happiness! It cries love and laughter and relationships! It shouts why recovery ADDS to our lives and not deprives us!

What language empowers others to make their dreams a reality? Use that language.

By Sarah Fichtner, Counselor at Relevance Recovery

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