I went to a funeral a couple of weeks ago…and since then I have been experiencing a certain amount of frustration as to why people don’t seem to want to take personal responsibility for their recovery!? So I have found myself vacillating between anger and minor irritation as to what it is that makes people hand away their personal power at the first given opportunity?
Moving between blame and justification for a slip or a relapse, but seemingly unwilling to take the steps towards personal responsibility, many of my clients seem to be living in some sort of recovery no man’s land… Not quite in the culture of addiction, but neither firmly standing in the culture of recovery. It’s almost as though they are waiting to be handed a magical “cure” for their “illness”. Since I don’t really believe in the disease model of addiction, seeing it more as a social disorder, I don’t believe that we are sick! I don’t believe that addiction always wins…and I certainly don’t believe that anyone other than us has the capability to “fix” our lives. Of course I believe in support in numerous forms, whether that is mutual-aid groups, therapy, counselling, coaching or faith-based guidance, but I do believe that ultimately the responsibility for our recovery lies firmly in our hands.
So I ask myself the following questions:
- Did I follow my recovery plan today and replenish my #RecoveryCapital
- Did I strive to be a better, more fulfilled person than I was yesterday?
- Did I practice mindfulness and spiritual principles?
- Did I use my personal tools and techniques to deal with difficult or stressful situations, so that I responded as an adult, rather than reacting like a child?
- Was I aware of my triggers and did I use my learned skills to deal with them?
Sound like hard work…? Well, in early recovery it certainly was, but as time passes these processes and practices become less conscious and more natural. Not unlike learning to play a musical instrument, speak a new language or play a sport, the brain and the body take time to develop new thought and behaviour patterns. Treatment may be necessary to deal with the symptoms of heavy substance use and the withdrawal, but this is just the beginning of the road for those of us who choose recovery. The time spent in a clinic or treatment facility needs to be supplemented through aftercare and maintenance programmes, so that the learnings introduced in rehab are practiced and reinforced over a longer time period.
We need to develop daily routines and practices that support a life of recovery and wellness. Constantly making choices that exclude the use of substances to deal with life, work, relationships, family, finances…eve fun! It’s about making choices that support recovery rather than simply allowing the memories (and associated dopamine rewards) of using to take control! It’s conscious awareness of what’s good for us and conscious avoidance of what isn’t! Drugs and alcohol are NEVER going away, families are always going to be emotional minefields, jobs and finances are probably going to be the cause of stress at some point, so the thing to do is to develop a set of tools and techniques that ensure that we are empowered enough to deal with these issues in a mature, grounded way.
Life doesn’t miraculously become easier in recovery…in fact sometimes the opposite is true, because sobriety is ordinarily full of technicolour emotions that have been dampened and pushed down for years! People expect miracles from their loved ones post-treatment, because now that the evil substances are no longer in the picture surely life should be perfect? The fact is that there is plenty of work for everyone in the family to do now that their loved one is free of substances. And there is always the chance of a relapse, because that is the unfortunate nature of addiction. But simply giving into the idea that we are sick and cannot control our lives and recovery doesn’t resonate with me…
It would have been so much easier to go to my client’s funeral with half a dozen Xanax in me…maybe a couple extra in my pocket just in case I felt anything like sadness or anger for his untimely death! And then a vodka or twelve to get through the rest of the day because it feels crap to feel crap! But those are the choices of my past. My present reality at times involves difficult situations, raw emotions, complicated relationships and stress in a myriad of forms , but my choice every day is to get up and action my recovery plan which simply put is this...I am a survivor who takes responsibility, is accountable and practices a set of spiritual principles so that I can sustain my recovery and in so doing continue to live a life of fulfilment and purpose.
I don’t for one minute say that this is easy and I have the humility to know when I am doing well and to be aware of when I am not achieving what I set out to do, but it’s a whole lot better than the alternative which is “just one more” of whatever it is…and a life that would unravel as surely the level in the tequila bottle dropped. So I know the difficulties and the challenge faced by my clients, and I understand that it is their journey not mine, but I can’t help wanting for them what I have, and sometimes that shows up as frustration I guess… And I never said it was going to be easy, I said it was going to be worth it!
Til next time,