Empathy in Addiction Treatment
I decided that I needed help.
I went to treatment.
I made a huge choice to become sober.
I went to rehab.
I thought that alone would be enough.
I thought that just making the choice to make my life better would be easy.
I had support.
I had professional help, friends, and family that all stood by me in my decision to become sober.
So, why was I still struggling?
Every day seemed to be a challenge.
Everyone around me seemed to have empathy.
They would have kind words to say.
My therapist would give me thoughtful tools to navigate the challenges in my life.
I was sober, but being sober was difficult.
I felt overwhelmed.
I felt sad at how much of my life seemed wasted when I was addicted.
I felt alone.
I decided to go to rehab.
And what I realized after time, is that I was being hard on myself.
I was expecting things to be a certain way rather than allowing things to happen in time.
Instead of living in the moment I was either living in a past or future that I could not control.
I did not have empathy for myself.
I did not have empathy at all.
I needed to learn how to have empathy and rehab taught me why it was so important.
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Why Empathy is Important
A study by the World Health Organization says that empathy is a basic building block for any relationship to thrive.
for Why is empathy important in rehab and beyond?
Based on this definition by the NIH, “Empathy is a powerful, efficient communication tool when used appropriately during a medical interview.
Empathy extends understanding of the patient beyond the history and symptoms to include values, ideas, and feelings.”
Empathy is a key component and skill to build in recovery.
According to a study by the NIH, people with substance abuse disorders can be seriously lacking.
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How Rehab can Help You Regain Empathy
Rehab can help you regain empathy skills again. You will have access to trained therapists who will listen to your story without judgement. You will have trained physicians that will listen to your needs. There will be opportunities to share your experience in a group setting where people will listen to what you have to say. You will also be given the opportunity to begin building your empathy skills by listening to other people’s stories in a non-judgmental way.
Listening to other stories also might spark something inside of you like it did for me. I began to realize that everyone had a similar background. We were all coming from place of hurt. No matter what the hurt was, it had a strong enough effect on us to lead us down the path of addiction. We wanted our hurt or anxiety to shut off. Empathy can lead us back to being able to listen openly to others feelings, and most importantly our own feelings.
Remember to Have Empathy for Your Self
Doing anything that turns your life completely upside down requires patience. But most of all, it requires empathy. Not just empathy from your support system. The person you need empathy from the most is yourself. You need to learn to suppress the voice in you that says you cannot do it. During rehab, you will learn to replace the negative voice with one that gives you encouragement.
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Ways I developed Empathy in Rehab
I used my imagination to understand how others might be feeling. That took me outside of what I was feeling and gave me a different perspective. It also made me realize that I could use this very same skill for whatever I was feeling to gain a different perspective. I stopped thinking while other people were talking. I learned to sit in silence. Not just physical silence, but mental silence. I truly absorbed what the other person was saying rather than focusing on how I was going to respond to whatever that was. This was truly life changing for me and rehab was the best place to practice it.
I developed self-awareness I was lacking before. I also realized that I didn’t need to agree with what people did to be empathetic. This was huge for me. It helped me to understand how to separate my ability to help others from my own judgements and opinions. Learning to help others gave me a confidence I didn’t even know I had.
Finding Empathy Again
Pay attention to people who thrive in rehab. They are the ones that are aware of their feelings. They are aware of other people’s feelings. They have learned to listen. They have also learned not to judge themselves or other people for feeling the way they do. They have learned not to judge other people for experiences they have had. I learned from my own personal experience that addiction can happen to anyone from any walk of life.
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You need to learn to listen to the inner voice.
Doing drugs can make you numb.
That is why rehab is so important.
It can teach you the skills to have empathy once again.
Rehab gives you the gift of widespread empathy from a support system of therapists, counselors, and the people that are also in treatment.
Empathy in rehab is the path towards a meaningful sober life and recovery.