Updated: Oct 4
What I am writing here, is opinion. It’s the opinion of a professional counselor who has spent many, many hours working with addicts and their families, their friends, their employers, their attorneys and their probation officers.
Many hours talking. Thousands of hours, if I added them up.
We talk about life, problems, compulsions, successes and failures. We talk about pain and joy and sometimes we talk about the sheer horror that accompanies addiction. Sometimes the talk is loud and angry, sometimes it is interrupted by tears, sometimes by laughter. The talk can be pressured and anxious, it can be relaxed and spontaneous. Sometimes it can be whispered, haltingly. Sometimes it's a flood.
Out of all this talk, I’ve come to conclusions that I’d like to share.
First, talk is healthy. Addiction thrives on secrecy because addiction is always based in shame. As the addiction drives our actions we become ashamed,not only of what we’ve done, but of who we are. Of what we are. And as long as that shame is wrapped in secrecy, it becomes stronger until it is a wall that cuts us off from the rest of human companionship.
The first time that an addict says their name at a 12 Step meeting followed by the words “and I’m an addict” something powerful begins to happen. The wall begins to crack, and the warmth of the other members flows in. Shame encounters a setback. Good talk has begun to replace the cold emptiness.
The Secret is out.
Second, talking out problems helps us to better understand them and come up with ways of solving them. There’s an old saying, “if you spend too much time in your head, you’re living in a bad neighborhood.”
it’s true. Talking to yourself rarely makes a problem easier to solve or an obstacle smaller. It’s more likely that we just keep turning something over and over in our heads, somehow making it more difficult and complex at every turn.
Talking it out with someone who is a really good listener, like an experienced professional counselor, is a different story. As we talk about difficulties we conceptualize them, we receive feedback which allows us to gain a perspective on what's causing our problem. Whatever the issue is, we’re no longer alone with it.