SELF-INJURY AND THE SOBER COMPANION
As addiction treatment professionals, we sometimes come to think that we’ve “seen it all”. And while many of us have experienced people & situations that would amaze or horrify the uninitiated, still there are some experiences for which no amount of education or training can prepare a Sober Companion. Self-injury is one of these.
Self-injury is known by a lot of names: self-mutilation, cutting, self-harm, etc. The best definition of self-injury was provided to us by an outstanding non-profit group from England called LifeSIGNS: “Self-injury is a coping mechanism. An individual harms their physical health to deal with emotional pain, or to break feelings of numbness by arousing sensation.”
Too often, this method of dealing (or, more accurately, not dealing) with life on life’s terms becomes a part of an addict’s arsenal of self-defeating methodology. Also too often, those treatment professionals who are well-prepared to help an addict detox and begin recovery are not prepared to assess or treat a person who self-injures. More than once, we have been on the job with a post-treatment client and seen horrific scarification – self-inflicted and usually permanent reminders of pain.
If you suffer from self-injury, you do not have to deal with it all alone. A Sober Companion can help. If you are dealing with other illnesses simultaneously, you can use a Sober Coach or a Sober Companion to help you identify triggers as they happen.
Our experiences are that standard triggers for self-injurers are feelings of vulnerability, the inability to cope, loneliness, and a seriously distorted vision of reality. Of course, these are triggers for addicts to use drugs. Residential treatment and other therapies are often effective at derailing the quick move to a fix, drink or pill when these triggers pop up, but they usually overlook this insidious way that addicts continue to hurt themselves – without taking drugs.
Many drug & alcohol abusers report taking drugs “in order to feel alive.” Too many of us fall into the trap of self-injury, once the drugs & alcohol are removed.
Do yourself a favor: if you cannot hire a companion or a coach, then at least reach out to others who understand self-injury and can help in other ways.
Talk to your therapist, medical doctor, psychiatrist, or other community members involved in healing.