To My Client in Recovery

Here is what I hope you took from our sessions together

I hope you stay clean and sober. I may not have a crystal ball, but I do know your life will be better with sobriety. With sobriety, you have possibilities. With sobriety, you can create a life you want, maybe even the life you did not know that you wanted yet. It may surprise you. What you do not know is that I believe this and want sobriety for you probably more than you want it for yourself. It is an easy choice from my chair, and I know that you still struggle or have doubts. I know my voice is not as loud or as internalized as your addiction voice, but I will keep holding on and waiting for my opportunities. I will wait patiently and then seize the moments to point out your addiction voice and how it lies to you. I will wait patiently and seize each opportunity to infuse hope into your thought process and, at least, wedge open a space for possibility.  As I wait for these moments, I remind myself to not preach to you. I push past at least a dozen thoughts in my head knowing you will not want to hear statistics, others’ experiences or most typical recovery responses. I will wait patiently for an opportunity to challenge old beliefs. I will wait patiently to infuse hope.

You are now imprinted upon my thoughts and heart. I feel for you and the difficulty of the path you are on with recovery. I am sometimes surprised that you are still clean and sober when you present for therapy and sometimes worry when you walk out the door if I will see you the following week. I hold you and your story with me in a quiet, yet accessible place in between sessions. I especially think of you over holidays, weekends and events that I know hold painful memories for you. I am aware of the difficult months or seasons in your life and remind myself to not hold my breath during the spring months because that is when your parent left or a loved one died. I understand this is your journey, yet I am now somehow along for the ride. I have accepted this role as your therapist, and with it, accept that I will hold you in a certain type of therapy way that is hard to describe. I will hold your memories. I will hold your goals. I will hold your hope when it feels heavy for you, yet only temporarily. I completely trust your ability to take these components back as you feel ready and will entrust your best self to you with confidence. I will hold a space for you if you need a touch up or a tune up, but trust you will know our time together and work together will be held and kept in confidence.

I understand how much guilt and shame you hold from your past. I know the intense level of regret you have over behaviors and choices when you were in the depths of your addiction. I also know you struggle to understand how to forgive yourself, and if you even deserve the chance. I realize it is hard to recognize the division of yourself and the addiction and sometimes believe externalizing your addiction is a cop-out. I promise it is not, and in fact, is necessary. It would be unfair to judge yourself for your actions in your addiction when your conscious self was not in charge. Yes, take accountability for your actions, but please work on leaving shame and guilt out of the process. I have never encouraged you to alleviate shame or guilt just to make the moment better. I believe you deserve forgiveness. I believe you need to allow yourself the freedom from your past if you are not making the same choices today while clean and sober.  To forgive oneself, you only need to know that today in a clean and sober state of mind, you would not repeat the behavior. If you can acknowledge that today clean and sober you would not repeat, please forgive. Your forgiveness of self is not just for you. It is also to aid your sobriety and brings a quiet relief to those who care for you. Please continue the work and process of letting go of guilt and shame and moving towards forgiveness. You deserve the process of forgiving yourself.

I hope you continue to get in touch with your emotions. I hope you learn that emotions are only emotions and not facts or life sentences. Each emotion will only be a visitor unless you allow fear or meta emotions to entrap you. Have some confidence that you will survive not just future experiences, but the emotions that will accompany the situation. You have survived worse, some done to you and some that you may have brought upon yourself. You will survive your feelings as well. Learn how to express them appropriately. Learn how you actually enjoy expressing your feelings. Learn how to share them with others with real time communication. Understand no one is a mind reader, and people will stop to hear what you are feeling. Individuals are drawn to true emotional experiences. Individuals will listen and will care if you are authentic and share with trusted individuals. We practiced this in therapy. You shared your feelings, and I listened. And I cared. I cared not because I am paid to or worked within a treatment center and somehow had to care. I cared because I learned to care about you and our relationship.

Our relationship is real. Therapy relationships are hard to make sense of for many people. Some like to believe that it is not real since it is “my job” or because I get paid to sit and listen. I believe you paid for the time, and I provide the experience and feelings freely. I cannot be paid to care, and I do not know how to fake a relationship. It goes against my training, my beliefs and my being. All of this being said, I care and our relationship is real. It may be one sided at times and it may be hard to believe you may trust me, but it is real. You mean something to me, and the hour we spend together week after week is a week out of my life as well. It is not an hour I can spend week after week investing in your future and your progress without it being real. I have been forever impacted by you, and I learned from you as much as you learned from me.

I have learned a lot about you in our time together. I have learned that you are a sensitive being even though you have tried to hide it over the years. I have learned that you somehow get through each day even when you are full of anxiety and fear. I learned you are smarter than you let on to others. I know you are resourceful and have somehow managed to survive so many experiences that are difficult to fathom. I know you are resilient. I know that resilience kept you alive at times and even kept your addiction going also. I know that resilience will support your recovery as long as you remember your ability to rise again and again.

Thank you for our time together. Thank you for reminding me of the human spirit and our tendency towards suffering as well as our tendency towards growth and beauty. Thank you for sharing your darkest memories with me and entrusting me with parts of you that you struggle to share with others. Thank you for allowing me to witness your growth and the changes in your life. It has been an honor, and I am glad you are able to move on and live your life. I respect your ability to live a clean and sober life and everything you have overcome.

This is what I hope you took from our sessions together. You are deserving of everything a clean and sober life has to offer. I hope you continue your growth and process. I am grateful for the time we shared and will hold hope for you which is something I also did in our time together, one session at a time.

Dr. Alia Kaneaiakala

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