Substance Use/Going On Holiday
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what the client’s investment in taking drugs are. As a professional if this dynamic is not understood, a loved one or a professional could easily get railroaded and deliver an intervention that may not be appropriate to the situation.
Let’s explore this from the perspective of going on a holiday, and then return to the issue of substance use.
Going on holiday is usually a wonderful experience. It gives you something to look forward to for months. Some people book it a year in advance.
It allows someone to create a new world that is all about them. It leaves the worries of work, bills, house cleaning and cooking behind. It leaves space that you can fit in activities that you enjoy such as sunbathing and can be a very relaxing time. It also gives you space to remove the guilt about doing nothing.
Doesn’t it sound like a description of the high that a client gets from substances?
With most highs, there are also negatives that go alongside it, e.g., going through customs, getting PCR tests, and most of all, the come down of getting back to miserable weather and coming back to the same responsibilities that you left behind.
Even though this may be the case, it is very rare that you hear people saying that they hate going on holidays.
Clients often say when they first come to services that they hate taking substances because of where their use is taking them. They talk about the destruction, paranoia, depression, break up of relationships and so on.
Just like going on holiday, the above is a casualty of their war. It is the price that is paid for the “high” that they are experiencing. At times, they spend so much time talking and living in the destruction that the investment in why they are doing this becomes blurred.
just like a holiday, you get a high which is usually followed by the comedown, as the saying goes, what goes up must come down.
It is important for the client to explore why they keep returning to substances and not just in the context of the destruction. A client does not relapse back into substances for what they dislike about substance use, they relapse through the memories of what they like about it.
So just like a holiday, the purpose is to create their own world, remove stress and worry and to be able to do exactly what they want to do for that period. A substance high is no different, and the reason why people are in services or struggling with life is because the destruction that follows the high has become overwhelming. However, with a holiday you accept that it is for a short period, whereas with problematic substance use, the client wants to keep returning there, or in the worst-case scenario, to live permanently in a world that is not real.
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