I am a fan of Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest in New Mexico. He's a little controversial in some more conservative Catholic circles, and perhaps that's why I like him. Last week one of his daily Lenten readings discussed the idea that creation is a continuous "water-wheel" of the Trinity emptying itself, pouring into, receiving, and emptying again.

He says, "It's no good telling people to let go if they can't be assured they will be re-filled. . . I can let go because I trust I will always be filled up again. That's the pattern of reality."

Emptying Physical Dependence and Guilt in Addiction

This line made me think about the courage it takes our accelerated opioid detox patients to ‘let go’ and allow their grip on substances to be released.


The physical dependence compounded by the shame and guilt-filled stories that our patients carry on their shoulders like boulders, creates its own waterwheel phenomena. It is extremely difficult to disengage from this ongoing cycle: physical need for the substance, relief, resolve to stop using, craving/withdrawal, using the substance, guilt/shame/despair. . .

Re-Filling to Strengthen Character and Sobriety

What we see in our alcohol detox, opioid detox, or benzo detox patients who break the cycle and achieve long term sobriety is an extraordinary “re-filling,” usually more than they’d ever anticipated.

A resource I suggest our patients try when they are in the business of re-creating (re-filling?) themselves is the Character Strengths survey (link here). 

This free survey rates a person’s 24 character strengths in order of strongest to weakest. Write your the top 5 strengths across the top of the page(the survey only takes about 15 minutes and you get results right away), and on the left, create a column of 4-5 of your most important roles. Here’s an example:

                         Sense of Humor    Love of Learning    Gratitude    Appreciation of Excellence    Perseverence   
Role 1: Spouse          
Role 2: Parent          
Role 3: Son          
Role 4: Banker          
Role 5: Race Car Driver          


The fun part is filling out in each box—or at least a few—how to utilize your character strengths intentionally in each important role, every day. I encourage people to write some of their best ideas on index cards and place them strategically in their daily environment or use the timer on their phone to remind them to use these ideas.

Let the re-filling begin!

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP