Counselling

Still here, still sober. Halfway through month eleven now. I haven’t posted in a while because any “self-reflection” energy I’ve had has been going into counselling.

When I signed up for counselling I explained that I wanted to talk about my drinking problem and mentioned that I might need to speak to an addiction counsellor specifically. But the counsellor I was matched with doesn’t have any background in dealing with addiction whatsoever so she basically just listens and can’t make any comment when I ask questions because she doesn’t know the answer. She’s really lovely, but it’s a bit frustrating seeing as I wanted some actual academic answers to stuff.

Instead we’ve been getting into the social anxiety/shyness issues I have, and talking about my “overactive inner critic”. I know I have quite a few traits that are typical of people with drinking problems – an all-or-nothing personality, a streak of perfectionism and an out of proportion fear of failure – so it’s good to dig into that stuff a bit. It was nice to hear that she reckons it’s all very fixable stuff, but after a few sessions I was none the wiser as to how I am meant to fix this stuff. “Getting conscious” of being self-critical was the first step, but I don’t really know what’s meant to happen after that…

After the first four sessions I decided not to continue because it seemed really expensive for what I was getting out of it, but she suggested a group counselling option, which my work would cover the cost of. So far I’ve been to one session and it was about as bad as you could expect a group counselling session to be. Here are a bunch of reasons it sucks:

  1. Sitting in a room full of strangers talking about all the embarrassing aspects of your personality, explaining that I could barely breathe due to anxiety and just feeling extremely vulnerable. Pure hell.
  2. As people in the room share their issues, the counsellors who are running the session try to involve other people by saying things like “Bob, how do you feel about what John has shared?” And poor Bob has to tell John that he empathises with him because he doesn’t get on with his in-laws (or whatever the issue is). It couldn’t be any clearer that Bob doesn’t feel any way in particular about John’s life problems and it’s equally clear that John feels incredibly awkward about forcing an opinion out Bob. Poor Bob, poor John, poor me.
  3. No one knows I don’t drink. My counsellor didn’t think I should bring it up because it’s a ‘side issue’. People keep mentioning how difficult the sessions are and joking that we all need to go to the pub. I predict that by session three everyone will be hitting the pub afterwards. That’ll be a fun one to navigate.
  4. The sessions run for two and a half hours. They feel like they go on for six and a half.
  5. I’ve already cried in front of a room of people. Dead embarrassing, but I may as well get used to it because my face leaks tears the entire duration of every counselling session I’ve been to. Now that I’m doing group counselling, it means I get to cry in front of 15 strangers instead of just one.
  6. I wasn’t told that the sessions would also include “psycho-drama”. Apparently this is where you get up in front of the group and act out your issues and then explore ways to deal with the issue by acting out different solutions and seeing how they make you feel. Acting. In front of people. Need I say more?
  7. There are EIGHT weekly sessions plus a weekend workshop. This hell isn’t going to end anytime soon.
  8. I can’t just stop going because my work have paid and the counsellors will surely tell my work that I’ve stopped showing up and I’ll get in trouble for wasting a lot of money.

I know this list makes it sound like I’m not really trying to be open to what group counselling has to offer. I did go in with a really open mind for the first session and after finding the experience seriously un-enjoyable I think I’ve made up my mind that it’s just going to be torture from here on in.

In drinking news, absolutely no desire or cravings to drink except a lot of anxiety in social settings when I’m around other people drinking, which I’m mainly avoiding at the moment. Still completely undecided about whether I want to attempt moderating at some stage, but I think having it there as an option makes me feel a lot more chilled out and happy to not be drinking today/this week/this month. I really wanted to discuss this stuff with a counsellor who knows what they’re talking about, but as I mentioned she hasn’t really been able to help me out there, so I might have to keep shopping around.

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8 thoughts on “Counselling

  1. I think the social anxiety group. If it takes, will be the thing that takes you from surviving to thriving. I’m not qualified to treat social anxiety so I can’t comment on the quality of the service but as an addiction counselor I would encourage you to decide if you share the fact that you don’t drink with the group. I get that they want to keep things focused but it seems to me, based on your writing, that you primarily used alcohol to numb your discomfort so you could connect with others. That would seem relevant to the discussion. But don’t take what I say too seriously because it’s not my area.

    I want to say you’re doing great. This group is one Hell of a risk and you just rose to the challenge. I was referred to an anxiety group in early recovery and I found it life changing.

    I’m going to write a short blog post on a memory you post brought to mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Ken 🙂 I really hope it does make a difference and that I’ll look back and think it was all worth it. It’s not specifically a group for social anxiety as there are a range of issues that people want to dig into, but I’ve found a few common threads. The second session last night felt more productive, so fingers crossed that it keeps getting better.

      Look forward to reading the new blog post 🙂

      Like

  2. I agree with everything grey says-for whatever that’s worth! It’s always so hard to go outside of our comfort zone-especially when we can’t bolt and run or self medicate ourselves through the situation. While you may not sign up for another round at the end of the eight weeks, I think that it will help you tremendously in many aspects of your life. At the least, the next time you’re uncomfortable in a social situation, you can tell yourself it’sa piece of cake compared to your group sessions. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Congratulations on 11 Months! That’s awesome.

    It’s been my experience that when I don’t feel good about a counselor it’s usually for a good reason and that while ending the counseling sessions feels scary and painful, it’s usually for the best. If you feel you need an addiction counselor, then I’d look for one that specializes in addiction.

    The idea that you’ve been told that drinking is a “side issue” disturbs me. In my own experience, I attempted to overcome social anxiety by drinking. The point being the two are inter-related in my life. I’ve also found that honesty is the key to any counseling. When I can’t be honest in a counseling session – for whatever reason – I know that I’m unlikely to get the benefits out of it that I need.

    Take everything I’ve said with a healthy grain of salt (except the Congratulations) – it’s just my experience and I’m not an addiction counselor.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Glad to hear the monkey is off your back. Have you tried anonymous meetings? I go and everybody knows my name. I think it’s important to be surrounded by other people who have the same issue and know what you’re issue is. That’s just my opinion though.

    Liked by 2 people

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