Spirituality is missing from efforts to treat today

During the past two years, many of you have called, sent notes and continually asked, “would you ever do a REBT group again?” The answer to myself has usually been, “no!”

The reason or reasons has to do with the climate of today’s treatment community. Clients are not stupid. If a treatment program or programs allow them an easier, softer way to go through treatment, they are going to take it. I’m speaking of “harm reduction,” which to me, as a 30-year counselor, is an easy, soft way to be treated.

What programs, especially in our area, have forgotten is that treatment was meant to be hard. All of my friends, who made a commitment to abstinence and recovery, suffered through the early days of their programs, because they really had no idea of how to challenge their thinking and how to live.

So, fast forward from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy on Thursday nights at Holy Trinity Parish Center from 7 to 8:15 p.m. which usually had a minimum of 20 to 40 people for mental health and chemical dependency treatment. This group ran for 13 years, helped hundreds of people and families and never cost them a cent.

When the “new” philosophies of the present presented themselves to the treatment community, it was like this is easy and no one really monitors or challenges one’s behaviors or thinking any longer. Thus, the REBT group began to dissipate.to the point that in the final days of the group, people no longer came to get our philosophy of spirituality and abstinence, but their “new” way of dealing with addiction.

It was at that point that I disbanded the group and swore to myself that I would never put myself through this again. I was satisfied that I had given everything that God gave me to impart to sick people as to what they needed to manage to get better.

Our philosophy was based on abstinence, not using alcohol or other drugs any longer because of the harm they had done to their lives. Secondly, my people were to make a commitment to spirituality, not religion. If they made a commitment to religion, fine, but that’s not what we were looking for. We were looking for the God of their understanding, outside of themselves. Most of chemically dependent clients set themselves up as their own “higher power.” This is why so many of them never get sober because what they can’t see, feel, touch or smell, they have no faith and thus have no idea of “acceptance” of their higher power or God’s plan for them. In other words, they are “spiritually bankrupt.”

So much of what we did in REBT was contingent on changing irrational thinking to a more rational way of managing anger, rage, shame, guilt, anxiety, depression and fear. These seven and thinking and feeling patterns have everything to do with why people keep relapsing and are in and out of treatment programs the rest of their lives.

So, the title of this lesson is spirituality. I would consider, and I said consider, doing a group based upon REBT and Louie Giglio’s book “Don’t Gve the Enemy a Seat at Your Table.” This group would be 75% spirituality, 25% mental health. Here is the hooker. At the end of this article is a telephone number (716-983-1592). If I didn’t get a minimum of 20 people that would commit to a group like this, I wouldn’t do it. Not 19, but 20.

This would tell me that you as men, women, parents, young people are not satisfied with what’s going on in treatment today.

At this point, I have no place to have the group, if there is a group. If no one calls, no group. Before I go out and search for a room to meet, I want to know that I have a group. If no one calls, no group. If 10 people call, no group. I want at least that number of people to go to treatment with. It is up to you people that have “bugged” me, the past few years, as to whether or not this will happen.

John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, used to say, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Many of you in treatment are “treatment smart.” But you are not “treatment sober.” How can you be, when the very people that are supposed to be helping you, are keeping you sick and making lots of money doing it.

In November, I will have 40 years. Ask me if I care or not if you get sober? I really don’t, but you should, because The Buffalo News published the headline last week of “Overdose deaths on the rise as an epidemic.”

There is a much better and safer way to commit to a program and get better. It would be a shame if you never had a chance to soar instead of staying in addiction the rest of your lives. Remember how many times I said this in a group over the years, “God never blinks.”

P.S. Thanks to all for the cards, letter and thoughts about Karen. I will never forget your kindness.

Mike Tramuta, REBT counselor who can be reached at 716-983-1592


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