By Colin Garnett
It appears to be internationally accepted counsel for new-comers into recovery out of an addiction, not to get involved in emotional and romantic relationships for a period of up to two years. The reasoning behind this suggested discipline lies in the hope that as you come into recovery you will start to change as a person, so in two years’ time, if you have joined a programme of change, you will not be the same person that you are today. It is also fair to say that, until you are at peace with the person you have become because of the addiction, and then made some necessary changes, the person you hope to be may remain a figment of your ambitions. There is also the toxic danger of wanting a relationship in order to get good feelings from an external source (using). Therefore, in simple terms, it could be relationally detrimental to invest yourself into the life of another person, especially if that other person is also in an early recovery programme.
However, whilst all that may sound like good counsel, in reality, not to be in relationship is simply not an option. Everyone is in ‘relationship’ with everyone else to one degree or another, and where there is ‘relationship’, there simply has to be ‘conflict’.
Three main strands of conflict:
1.The Intra-personal conflict – that war which rages within yourself between your Cognition (what you know to be healthy and unhealthy choices); your Spirituality (which is either destroyed or developed by what you choose to feed it); and your Emotional chaos (the culmination of shame, fear, guilt and failure due to the addiction).
2.The Inter-personal conflict – rooted in your Intra-personal conflict, people back away from you because they have learned that going into any form of relationship with you comes with a high price. That’s why you now have all those failed relationships and lost friendships behind you and that haunting feeling that no one really wants you around, they just tolerate you.
3.The Systemic Conflict – also rooted in your Intra-personal conflict. This is why you have always found it really difficult to believe that you actually fit in anywhere. Therefore, if we neglect the life-controlling conditions of Intra and Inter-personal conflict, the only community within which you will feel any sense of belonging is where mind- and mood-altering chemicals rule supreme, where healthy is made to look sad and unhealthy is made to look good; this is where miss-fits fit in and where unacceptable behaviour is the key to acceptance – The Drug Culture.
“Welcome back to planet earth, we’ve missed you”
The concept of conflict has many and varied definitions. For the purposes localising our approach we use the following definition of conflict: “a difference in opinions or purposes that frustrates someone else’s goals or desires”.
The Minefield of Relapse
In the journey from active destructive addictions and repeatedly expensive clinical treatments, to the struggles of early recovery and consistent social stability, the road is fraught with Relationship Conflict. It is the one guarantee that most programmes warn you about, and now a growing number of clinicians are actually learning to prepare you for.
At Cherrywood House, the more you grow relationally, the less expensive the programme becomes financially – that way, you start the process of reconciliation and healing by showing your family how ‘things are improving’. Stop promising and show them.
An integral component of your treatment programme at Cherrywood House will be our practical and understandable ‘Relationship Conflict Management for Early Recovery’ seminars. Our aim is to equip our clients with relationship awareness and tools for taking developmental responsibility, so that they can return home with the relational ability and willingness to take 80% of the responsibility for creating a new relational normal for everyone around them.
Conflict is the energy which can both tear families apart and/or draw them closer together, depending on how it is handled. It is this dual potential within each of us to which Cherrywood House introduces clients and their loved ones.
Individual relational empowerment is the seedbed of transformation in individuals, in couples, in families and ultimately out into our societies. The addict or the alcoholic, who once sat central to everyone’s concerns and chaos, now becomes the person everyone wanted them to be.
All of a sudden, as each family member commits to the day-to-day applications of relational self-honesty, everyone becomes an autonomous and integral part of the solution.
There are five key Conflict Styles, four of which are deadly:
1.The Teddy Bear – this is the people-pleasing approach of ‘everyone must like me’ so I must deny myself to keep everyone happy – Deadly!
2.The Turtle – this is the ‘we must avoid all conflict at all costs’ mind-set. These guys sit passively and wait for every storm to go away, and then every six weeks or so they explode and dredge up resentments that they have accumulated and stored within their passivity – Deadly!
3.The Fox – these are the very subtle abusers who will ‘let you win a little bit so that they can win the most’, and then when they relapse, they somehow seem to have the ability to help you to feel guilty. These guys are only ever honest in order to manipulate you – Deadly!
4.The Shark – this is the relational bully who believes that there are only two options in life – winning and losing – and that winning is best. Every dispute is a competition and relational harmony is dependent upon them winning – Deadly!
Within this deadly quartet we have a terrible two:
1.The Peace Fakers – they deny, get depressed, and run away from people
2.The Peace Breakers – they accuse, get aggressive, and chase people away
Wisdom is needed.
5.The Owl – this is the collaborator, The Peacemaker, the one who says: ‘Okay guys, everyone’s interests are important here; let’s listen to each other and work out how to find a ‘win-win’ situation; our family and our relationships are more important than individual personal agenda – Developmental!
At Cherrywood House, our Conflict Management for Early Recovery seminars challenge each individual to examine and embrace how they have been contributing to the heartache of everyone around them by their deadly conflict styles.
It is a world-wide phenomenon that the majority of relapses back into active addiction take place because of Relationship Chaos, and basically, we believe, it all boils down to people not knowing how to disagree with each other from time to time, without one or all of them taking everything as a personal attack and therefore falling out with each other for ever.
We think it may be time to stand up and fight ‘with’ what we believe, ‘alongside’ the people we love, instead of fighting ‘for’ what we think would be best, ‘against’ the people we are failing to control.
“Conflict is the energy which can both tear families apart or draw them closer together, depending on how it is handled”