Fear.  It’s often said that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.  Even Yoda, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, said “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”

Many of the clients I see on a daily basis are in treatment due to legal complications as a result of substance abuse and addiction.  They might be mandated by a Drug Court judge or a Department of Corrections Parole Officer.  But they still have a choice as to whether to attend/participate in their treatment or to face consequences for not attending.  Fear.  It can be a great motivator, but it can also be a great barrier to growth.  And, as a motivator, it can only get someone so far.

I work with individuals with drug and/or alcohol dependence and those who are most successful in recovery have learned some very critical cognitive skills.  The first one is the most important: learning to love oneself first.  Jesus is quoted as saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Essentially, you need to love yourself first.

Consider, too, the FAA-required instructions given by flight attendants before every domestic (sorry, I don’t know about international) flight:

Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.

What this means is to make sure you are able to care for yourself before caring for others, lest they perish alongside of you.

This is key.  I remind clients that they might be in treatment without a legal mandate – that they might be in treatment at the request of a parent, child, or significant other.  Sure, that might look like love is the motivator, but oftentimes, fear of him or her leaving the client is the motivator, or of discipline or legal action taken.  So…

Ultimately, each client needs to come to the realization him or herself that treatment is a means of self-care at this stage in the client’s life – to propel the client toward success in his or her other endeavors.

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