Addiction Counselling

Russell Brand said ‘drugs and alcohol are not my problem – reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution.’

I think the reality Brand is talking about is about how to live, love and work in society as an independent adult.

Counselling is a good way to show, as if in a mirror, what is making life difficult. Usually addicts say their lives feel empty, or out of control, or they feel depressed or anxious. Their addiction brings them short term relief but they know it carries with it some destructive aspects in terms of health, money or relationships. Frequently they want to stop but feel powerless to do so. Fundamentally they are not at ease with, and do not feel good about themselves and use the addiction to find psychic relief. Because the benefit is only short term the behaviour will be repeated. The addictive cycle starts by not feeling good about oneself as a child who has been easily upset by uncontrollable events but lacks the protective environment to calm anxiety and make him feel valued and safe.

Some people, mostly those who are depressed, develop a passive stance and then try to counter the loneliness, helplessness and emptiness with their addictive behaviour. Others actively try to make relationships or take control of their environment but because they feel so worthless, lacking in confidence and with low self-esteem find these attempts repeatedly fail or disappoint. And if they empty themselves out trying to please others in every way they know, they look for a quick fix to recharge themselves through their compulsive behaviour. The anger and sadness which arises often leads to depression.

counselling for addiction in oxfordIn counselling we talk about all the negativity and the unrewarding results generated by feelings of inadequacy and helplessness which reinforce the fundamental despair and self-hatred that addicted clients frequently describe. I stress the importance of taking in as much goodness as possible from the environment to build up a core feeling of positivity, optimism and self-belief which acts as a buffer when difficulties arise. This vital self-nourishment comes from savouring a compliment or consciously noticing enjoyment or an achievement, however small, to finding stimulation and satisfaction through a course or sport or creative activity.

I encourage people to imagine themselves having an invisible protective boundary which differentiates them from other people and reminds them of their own limits. If they can imagine standing on that boundary and being assertive by ‘telling it like it is’ and with the ability to say ‘No’ they can keep their core-self honest, safe and strong. If they choose to become more intimate and let selected people into their boundaried self that is fine, but if others force their way in then they must be removed. The aim is to develop adult to adult relationships where mutual respect is upheld, disagreements can be negotiated and mistakes repaired.

So they learn to use anger assertively and not aggressively, to exercise choice over who to connect with and in what way, to responsibly and pro-actively engage in outside activities and to be confident in being honest so they have nothing to hide from themselves or others. Self-awareness is encouraged so when they feel sad, guilty or anxious they notice and can relate those emotions to past and present experiences thus making sense of why they have those feelings rather than immediately escaping from them into the addiction.

counselling for addiction oxfordThe aim is for the individual, in time, to become a self-standing, pro-active person who can give and take appropriately and find an internal state of psychic balance without any dysfunctional prop. In short he will have discovered that reality is not a problem and he is empowered to be an adult.


If you these feelings seem familiar please get in touch. Taking the first steps can be a challenge, but the rewards can be life changing. With help you can regain control of your life and rediscover yourself free from addiction.