During my 8½ year tenure at PCS (Psychological Counseling Services, Ltd) I sat in many sessions during the PCS intensives with some clients (most clients were from out-of-state) who expressed their reluctance to step outside their zone of familiarity. They were sitting in the middle of an extensive and extended outpatient treatment process with others and seemingly having strong insights and meaningful awareness as it pertains to their particular addiction or situation. Yet, these particular clients were expressly reluctant to plan on staying connected to their new peers at that time with whom they had been open and transparent and the peers themselves had been vulnerable and deeply honest about their pasts and painful choices. Equally these clients were adamant that back home they hadn’t been connecting with their peers outside of their regular recovery meetings either. These clients expressed various ways that they weren’t good at that sort of thing nor were they comfortable with that. Curious, I regularly inquired as to the hesitation to form bonds of support back home or with their new PCS peers beyond that current week, as this was often a recommendation for increased likelihood of recovery and accountability. These clients stated things such as, “I have tried inviting my peers to go out or to hang out after hours but they have declined or couldn’t. I am certain that if they would go with me then I would find that more comfortable for me to ask them to exchange numbers for continued contact after the Intensive we are in.” But due to their peers not taking these clients up on their offers, even for legitimate reasons, these clients would express that they had done their part and that was that, and nothing more could be done… and this was often about as far as they would try even back home.
“Oh really?” I would say. And in many of those moments I was struck with a memory of an old parable I would share of a man searching for wisdom from a great master guru and the lesson of fighting for your life despite limitations, doubts, and fears, culminating with the thought…
After recounting this parable and its message I would look into these clients’ eyes and say, “When you want your marriage, your integrity, your family, your health, and your recovery as much as you want to breathe… that’s when you’ll do whatever it takes, no matter the discomfort or unfamiliarity. To this they would typically sit there at that point, quiet and pensive… and eventually respond with something to the effect of… “Mark, that’s a hard truth to hear… and even harder to ignore. “I know what I need to do. But how do I do it?” To that I would say, “I’m so glad you asked, because there is hope!” And that is when the next level of their work continued.
These clients are no different from average citizens. As humans go we tend to stick with the familiar and comfortable. However, as experience has taught us, it is the adversity, the discomfort, and the challenge that pushes us to new and greater heights. This was so in my own healing journey, and so it has been for so many of my clients along the path of my career. Thus, I look forward to many more of them being encouraged and challenged to step beyond the familiar and into the initially uncomfortable recovery path.
Mark Bell, LMFT, CSAT: a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist (CSAT) currently with Arizona Family Institute whose career includes almost 9 years at Psychological Counseling Services in Scottsdale, AZ as a member of the PCS Intensive Outpatient Program and nearly 3 years as a primary therapist in Hattiesburg, MS at Gentle Path, an in-patient treatment center for Sexual Addiction under the direction of Dr. Patrick Carnes. Most importantly, Mark has been married 14 years to his wife, Dyan, and together they are the parents of 5 kids… all boys!” You can find out more about Mark and his practice at Arizona Family Institute.
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