In recovery, the steps that you take may not be as important as the shoes that you wear.
What we think about grows. Attributed to the Buddha
How we think about recovery changes how we view ourselves. Recovery used to mean things like admitting to our powerlessness, confession, a fearless inventory and a commitment to sobriety. It doesn’t mean that anymore.
Do you see yourself as powerless over your addiction or your depression, anxiety or trauma? In need to confess all of your shortcomings before you can change? Having only one way to change (ie: through abstinence and by attending recovery groups)?
Most people who quit using substances do not attend 12 step groups. Most smokers quit ‘cold turkey,’ with the aid of a smoking cessation tool like a patch or gum, by gathering other supports and by planning how they will spend their time. (In recovery terms, we call these “lifestyle supports” – lifestyle changes that you can make that support your recovery. For example, joining a volleyball team or re-engaging a positive hobby or saving your money towards a vacation of a lifetime. These activities will help you live a more fulfilling life, outside of your addiction or mental illness). The same is true for those who have cut down on their alcohol or heroin use. Not everyone needs to cut back or quit on their own and for many, they will need therapy or support to address important mental health and self-care needs.
Attending treatment or therapy is not a weakness, it is a sign that you continue to have hope.
How we see recovery has changed and expanded. SAMSHA – The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has revised it’s working definition of addiction to:
This definition includes four key statements:
1.Recovery is a process of change – Change begins with hope and it is never a straight journey from where you are to where you want to be. It is more like a dance (moving back and forth, and around in circles) instead of a walk around the block. Preparing to change is change.
2.Recovery is a process of improving your health and wellness – When you improve any aspect of your health (mind, body, spirit, relationships), you are working on your recovery. Recovery is not just about clean time or about remission from symptoms of a mental illness. It is about what happens in the rest of your life.
3.Recovery is learning to live a self-directed life – You may not like your decisions, but you do have choices. You may not have many choices, but at least you can change your mind and change your attitude. You may feel like you lack the strength to change, but you can start small. The more that you begin to make your own choices, the more energy your recovery will have. Living a self-directed life does not mean that you don’t ask for help. In fact, asking for help is one of the most empowering things that you can do.
4.Recovery is where you strive to reach your full potential – Recovery is about figuring out who you want to be, and how you can live your best life. If you are not drinking so much or using marijuana or cocaine, what are you doing with the rest of your life? If you are no longer numb with depression or crushed by anxiety, what will your life look like? Recovery is about figuring out the rest of your story.
What you think about grows: If you are preoccupied with your identity as a substance-user, your depression, your anxiety or your trauma then that will be the dominant identity that you have. There is more to your life than substance abuse, depression, anxiety, trauma or other mental illness realities.
Remember, your addiction or mental illness may make you feel like you have lost yourself. To quote the band Switchfoot: “You were meant to live for so much more, more than this world has for you. You were meant to live!”
In the coming weeks, we will be exploring the 10 Principles of Recovery:
- Many Pathways
- Peer Support
- Addresses Trauma
Addiction and recovery are not just about the drugs. It is about your mind and your emotions and your relationships. It is about what is happening with the rest of your life. From “What Addiction is and What it is Not.”
For more, you can read about the first article in this series: “Recovery” has changed and here is what you need to know about it, or you can find the full report by clicking here and by tuning into my blog.
I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.
Lastly, if you like my writing, you can click here to vote for my page on Psych Central’s list of mental health blogs.
Keep it Real
Photo by Zach Dischner