It is a good sign when a client can see the consequences of his or her drinking, drugging, gambling or acting out sexually. The consequences include a spouse that is mistrusting, a mother that cries a lot, a bank account that is overdrawn or a friend that won’t stop by anymore. When the fog begins to clear and a client becomes more conscious, it seems that the subject of consequences comes up.
I am always very happy when I hear the client speak about their remorse and sadness over the consequences of their addiction. Even better to let the client talk on, bringing all of this remorse into the light. The coach can sit back and just listen. Talking about the consequences drives home the insidious nature of the addiction while validating that the client does not want to go down that path again. The client can see their addiction has hurt the people they love the most: their spouse, their family and their friends. When I hear a client talk about consequences, then I know he or she is really starting to “get it,” truly grasping sobriety and the benefits of clarity.
A discussion on consequences is a great opportunity to bring forth the ambiguity of how addiction obliterates one’s moral compass. One client went on talking about his compulsive lying. He lied to everyone. He lied about using. He lied to avoid conflict or arguments. Soon he lied just because a lie rolled off his tongue easier than the truth. He lied for no reason at all. Of course, in time, these lies started to catch up to him. He regretted the loss of trust he had with his wife and his best friend, because of his compulsive lying.
This client also regretted the loss of his commitment to his wife. Under the influence, he slept with other women. He now fears taking an HIV test. He knows that if he was not using, the situation would have never presented itself. He loves his wife—she is everything to him. He fears if she finds out about his lack of commitment to the marriage, she will seek a divorce. Should the results of the HIV test prove positive, his marriage will be equally threatened.
The discussion of consequences can be very difficult for a client. Often, the client will cry, express guilt, admit to being ashamed. They may discuss their feelings of powerlessness. As a client meeting ends, it is a very good time to reframe the discussion into a positive message. If the client realizes that they don’t want to return to their addiction, remind the client to keep these thoughts in mind, and as “green” as possible. A client can journal about the consequences, refer back to the journal when thinking about picking up again. Also, while the remorsefulness is fresh, it is a good time to mention that in the future (not now), they will be able to complete a ninth step with the people he or she has hurt and make amends to them. This will bring the client into a state of hope.
Lastly, discuss that feeling of powerlessness. I interject the 12-step mentality of having a higher power, that your higher power always has your back. I also mention that I firmly believe in the Buddhist philosophy of surrender. If a client has any doubt about how surrendering will help their sobriety, I hand over a small card with this quote:
“Doubt comes from the absence of surrender” –Ramana Maharishi