One of the most debilitating experiences in addiction is the loss of feeling empowered and strong. Losing the ability to stop using drugs or alcohol even if one wanted to, which is the hallmark sign of addiction, can undermine the feeling of wellbeing and inner strength. Furthermore, most men and women are used to entering the mental health field as well as the medical field and experiencing professionals in the field telling them what to do. It’s common to expect a doctor to know what’s wrong with us and to tell us what to do to get well. And along these lines, this is frequently what happens in the mental health field, including psychiatrists, therapists, and professionals in recovery. Losing one’s sense of power to substances and then not having a say in one’s own recovery can feel debilitating. However, part of the healing in recovery is learning how to self-advocate and speak up for one’s own needs.
Advocating for yourself can be difficult if you’ve never done so in the past. Furthermore, advocating for yourself in the face of a mental health professional might even be intimidating. However, in some cases, it might need to be done. Of course, ideally, we want to have a trustworthy relationship with the professionals who are taking care of us. However, if you feel that you are not being treated the way that you would like or if you feel that the kind of treatment you’re receiving is not addressing your needs, then you will need to speak up for yourself.
First you should know that you have the right to:
- Ask for what you want.
- Change your mind.
- Be listened to.
- Have a say in the treatment services you receive.
- Change your mind.
- Determine what’s important to you.
- Make your own decisions.
- Be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion.
- Express your feelings.
- Stay true to your values and beliefs.
- Have personal space and time to make decisions.
- Involve your family and friends in your treatment.
- Be yourself
- Change health care providers if you need to.
- Be treated as a whole person – not just someone with an addiction or mental illness.
- Learn how to help yourself.
- Track and evaluate your own progress in treatment.
Knowing your rights can support you in your ability to self advocate. In fact, if you’re intimidated of standing up for yourself, one of the best ways to ease the challenge of self-advocacy is to educate yourself. Get informed about your addiction, your symptoms, and what you might need during your recovery. Take time to research your treatment options so that you know what your choices are. Understand the consequences of your choices. For instance, you might choose to go to a naturopathic, holistic doctor versus a medical doctor to help treat the withdrawal symptoms of addiction. Although it might be the healthier choice, it may come with some drawbacks. Knowing what your options are as well as the pros and cons can provide you with the ability to make the right decision for yourself.
Self-advocacy might feel challenging at first. However, knowledge is power, and it can ease the challenges of standing up for your own needs in recovery.
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