The Role of Storytelling in Addiction Rehab: Moving from Past to Future
Sometimes finally admitting your addiction is the act that breaks through the dam that’s been blocking painful memories, and during addiction rehab recovering addicts may feel encouraged to talk. Addiction stories come bubbling forth, an unceasing flow of talk bordering on chatter. The act of speaking can feel cathartic.
But telling story after story can lead to a culture of one-upping, the idea that the next person’s story must beat the last person’s in degree of pain, or shame or some other emotion. One result of this is dishonesty. Recovering addicts may feel pressure to bend the truth in drug or alcohol recovery because they feel like the environment demands it.
In an article entitled “Let Me Tell You a Story” published in The Fix, the author remembers the stories of her father, a man addicted to alcohol. His tales, she writes, were just like those told by recovering addicts she met during her own alcohol recovery:
“All about how everyone’s doing terrible things to them, how bad and mean and horrible their boyfriend/girlfriend/father/mother/daughter/son—you name it—is, how the world is out to get them…Sometimes it feels like a warped competition of whose life is worse. And, of course, these stories serve as evidence for why nothing is going to work.”
Stories of the past, of the painful events of one’s life that drove he or she to abuse alcohol or drugs, often paint the user as a victim. Tales that victimise the speaker strip him of the need to take control of his life and to own up to the decisions that led to addiction.
It is important in drug or alcohol recovery to talk through and understand the actions that brought you to addiction, but not to use these stories as defences against recognising the responsibility you have to change your life. In this way, addition rehab should focus on stories of the future – you know where you’ve come from, but who are the characters in the story of where you’re going?