Having worked for many years with people who struggle with emotional issues and addiction issues within the ‘mental health’ field, I am drawn to make a very important distinction. This blog is not intended as a criticism of the amazing hard work being done on a daily basis by drug workers, addiction counsellors, social workers, youth workers or the myriad of services dedicated to providing a refuge and holding for those in their care. I pay tribute to the Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force and the work of Kate Gibney, Matt Talbot services (http://www.mtas.ie/) and the work of Edel Foley in Cork City and KYSS (Kinsale Youth Support Services – http://www.kyss.ie/) in Kinsale in particular for the great work they do. I salute you all and bow my head in admiration for all you do in such a self-less manner. I worked in all of these roles but if I’m honest I found that so much was being sacrificed without it being of any lasting change to the person in need. Supportive, without doubt, but to say healing or resolving of any deep core issues within the person’s life, no.
This is not a belief that I hold casually or without years of being on the front line of addiction. I have felt that too often the model of treatment was inherently toxic for any real change to be possible. Too often addiction is seen as a sign of fault in the person, that they are flawed and without the necessary capacity to be a healthy whole person without compromises being forged. They need to adjust to a skewed reality – that something is wrong with them. Treatment thus becomes a means to protect them from themselves, to guide them towards this realisation and to offer them the ‘truth’ about themselves and to light the only path to their ‘recovery’. The core of much addiction treatment becomes that the drug is the issue and without the drug you are recovered. It has been my experience that to have an addiction issue in Ireland is akin to being a leper and an outcast. The shame and worthlessness inherent in a human who is struggling to feel safe and less fragmented in themselves, is reaffirmed and solidified by the system that is meant to aid them. As a professional I could not understand how healing would happen if this is the underlying message being filtered – how could you summon strength when all you were being told is that you are weak and broken right from the beginning. I felt this injustice more I guess as I worked with young people as young as fourteen years of age.
What began to happen is that I naturally began to listen and talk less to the people I was meeting. Rather than telling them and shuffling them towards the ‘right’ way, I just sat back and gave them my attention. What happened organically is that began to look up from the floor and meet my eyes, they began to talk about their struggles – within their present life and far back into their history. Without prompting they spoke of their inner turmoil, of their feeling world and the thoughts that hijacked them and led them to suffer and feel consumed and without control. Finally, as I listened I kept hearing the same word over and over again, the word that seemed to be a beacon for their struggle, what they universally sought that would mean they had beaten their ‘disease’.
That word was ‘safety’.
To be secure is to be in control of their lives. I often feel stopping the ‘work’ of addiction and beginning to listen was as much a gift to me than to them. It convinced me that the content of their life story, particularly their early life and how they adapted to experiences was why they needed support. Take away the drug and they are seen as the same as anyone who struggles with their existence. I decided to train to become a psychotherapist and work in a deeper way to help people reclaim (not recover) themselves. I have been inspired by the work of Daniel Siegel and Gabor Mate as a personal support through this transition. My work today offers as much of that listening ear as it did in those early days. I also offer a means to put their inner jigsaw together again, to begin to contain the turmoil, to slow the mind and to find peace in the early day when all around them has not yet stopped spinning. As this happens over time we can then begin the deeper journey to understand and gain access to their wounding in a way that is manageable and empowering to them. The work can be slow but it is always guided by where the person is on a given day or a given moment in their journey. The process comes second to your dignity and to your individual pace as a human.
This is a brief introduction to my work of addiction with adolescents and adults in Cork. I have worked now for five years as a psychotherapist and specialise in working with Trauma through the body. I am a fully accredited Psychotherapist and Addiction counsellor and trained in EMDR. I am currently undertaking my training in Somatic Experiencing in Antrim. I continue to work full-time and am deeply passionate about my work and consider it an honour to have this opportunity. I place the person and our relationship at the centre of the work and hold that they have all they need already, but need my expertise to be light-bearer for them as they journey.
If you or a loved one would like to talk about the possibility of change or wish to ask me any questions I would love to hear from you. If I can be of help I would be glad to make a difference. I work in Cork city and Kinsale, Co. Cork – Monday to Friday.
Website – http://jasoncowell.ie/