Why Therapy didn’t Work

I saw many therapists over the miserable years of my first four decades. The last one, Vanessa, was incredibly smart and lovely and learned and compassionate; however, she -nor any of her predecessors- could help me at all with my addictions.

There was one huge way she did help me, though – she told me I was very, very sick, and I had absolutely no choice in life but to stop doing drugs and to attend 12 Steps meetings. Through the 12 Steps, I was able to heal and to get well.

Why didn’t therapy help me with substances AND food? BECAUSE, the therapist was so kind and compassionate – I never had to take a tough look at myself and my behaviors, and I never had to change myself.

For example,Vanessa would tell me what a terrible mother I had – that I was entitled to my anger. In fact, she thought I should be angrier than I was? (Hard to imagine – I was really, really, really angry!)

The 12 Steps told me that I had to get free of anger – anger would lead me back to drugs and the drugs would kill me. The 12 Steps told me I was 40 now and responsible for my own life. I couldn’t blame my mother for my current sorry life because she hadn’t been perfect when I was a child. Besides, the poor woman was dying of Parkinson’s Disease at the time – not much she could do to help.

In therapy, I was allowed to wallow in ‘poor me.’ But as they say in AA, Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink. Wallowing is very dangerous for the likes of me.

Through the 12 Steps, I had to face my life, show up and grow up. I had to see where I, me, Melissa, was the problem. My mother, my father, my brother, my teachers, my friends, my colleagues – they weren’t my problem. And that’s really good news, because I can’t change other people, but I can change myself and most specifically – my actions and reactions.

No therapist ever told me to show up and grow up. Uh, my sponsor did – many, many, many, many….times.

Turns out that self-pity was my BIGGEST problem, mostly because it lead me back to food, alcohol and drugs. I now know I have NO reason to feel sorry for myself at all. I am completely blessed and lucky (particularly lucky to be alive, considering some of the things I did, back in the day.)

But ONLY through taking that hard and thorough and honest look at MYSELF and MY defects and defective thinking – was I willing and able to change. And to see the truth – I have a very good life.

There is no longer any desire to run to substance or food. Bottom line – I have nothing to eat over.

4 thoughts on “Why Therapy didn’t Work

  1. I just finished therapy over some substance abuse issues I was having and I agree it is a really tough way to “solve” any kind of substance abuse. I was actually shocked at how hard it was to even find anyone who specialized in that area. That said, it did get my behavior to change, but I went into therapy with that change decided.


    1. Erin: I’m so glad you got help!!!! And if it worked, great! There is no one way to get well. And your willingness and determination are the key factor. Thank you for writing. Love you!!!


  2. It IS a really hard place to sit. And for me, self-pity lead me right to the refrigerator or the bottle. There’s a really really good book called Recovery by Rami Shapiro. It’s really kind of written for everyone, not just addicts. I recommend to everyone and most people love it. It’s soothing.


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