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Monday, April 14, 2014

Early Stage of Recovery: What to Do If 12 Step Meetings Are Too Overwhelming For You

Generally speaking, as a psychotherapist, I recommend 12 Step meetings, especially during the early stage of recovery.  But I also know that for many people, especially people who have a history of emotional trauma, going to 12 Step meetings can be too overwhelming during the initial stage of recovery.

Early Stage of Recovery: What to Do If 12 Step Meetings Are Too Overwhelming For You

12 Steps Meetings Have Saved Many Lives
The 12 Steps, which are principals for living life, provide a structured step-by-step philosophy that many people describe as having been life saving for them.

Many of these people struggled in isolation and shame with their addiction before they began attending 12 Step meetings. But when they began going to meetings, they discovered that they were not alone.  This provides many people with a sense of comfort and safety.

12 Step Meetings Have Saved Many Lives

In most 12 Step meetings, many people in early recovery can find mutual support among other people who are also struggling with addiction.  There is also an opportunity to find a sponsor who can help with working through the 12 Steps.

For Many People With Emotional Trauma, 12 Step Meetings Are Too Overwhelming
But there are many other people, who have a history of emotional trauma, who find the meetings to be too overwhelming, especially when they hear stories in the meetings that triggers their trauma.

When people feel triggered during the early stage of recovery by hearing stories that are overwhelming, they can feel like drinking or drugging (or gambling, overeating and so on, depending upon their addiction).

Many people, who get emotionally overwhelmed override their own sense that they are making themselves too emotionally vulnerable to relapse because they feel that there's something wrong with them if they can't tolerate being at the meetings.

After all, they think to themselves, many people have told them that going to 12 Step meetings is good for them.  So they continue to force themselves to go and continue to get triggered and retraumatized because they're not ready to hear other people's traumatic stories in the meeting.

Of course, there are also a multitude of success stories in the meetings about how people have achieved years of sobriety and many stories about hope and transcendence.

But, for many people with a history of emotional trauma, it only takes one difficult story to overwhelm them and then they relapse.  They're just not ready, at that point, to attend 12 Step meetings.

Getting Triggered is a Common Experience For People Who Have Been Traumatized
There is no reason to feel ashamed about this.

Getting Triggered is a Common Experience For People Who Have Been Traumatized

Getting emotionally triggered is a common experience for people who experienced trauma.

Just like a veteran who returns from war can get triggered when he or she hears the backfiring of a car which sounds similar to an war time explosive, anyone who has trauma can get triggered when they're in particular situations.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you are in the early stage of recovery and you're finding it too difficult to attend 12 Step meetings, you can get help by working with a licensed mental health professional who has expertise in working with clients in early recovery who have a history of emotional trauma.

An experienced therapist can help you to develop the necessary coping skills to deal with early recovery issues as well as relapse prevention.

Many people who are in the early stage of recovery want to rush into dealing with their trauma before they're ready.  They feel that they've wasted too much time and they want to make up for lost time by rushing into things.

But usually this isn't a good idea during the early stage.  You need to learn coping skills and develop internal and external resources before you begin to deal with trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy

Once you have developed coping skills and the therapist assesses that you're ready, then you can begin to work on the underlying emotional trauma.

Being safe, both physically and emotionally, is the first priority.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individuals and couples.

I am a certified Substance Abuse Professional, and I have worked with many clients who are in recovery.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.






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