Recovery is a structure of sorts.
Every recovery needs a foundation
The foundation of your recovery is physical abstinence. This is has to be the foundation on which you build all your other recovery efforts, or they will not be sustained over the long term. I have seen so many addicts and alcoholics get this wrong in recovery, only to relapse because of it.
Some people put other things in front of their physical abstinence. For example, they will get involved with a new relationship and be “swept off their feet,” so to speak. The focus shifts from maintaining physical sobriety to the new relationship. Because the new relationship feels so good, the addict thinks that they are in control and that they are invincible. But anything you put in front of your sobriety you will eventually lose. When we relapse, we typically lose everything.
Some other recovering addicts end up relapsing because they don’t put a high enough priority on physical abstinence. They put spirituality up on a pedestal in their mind and develop too much spiritual pride. Or, they do the same thing with their recovery program itself. It is hard to describe, but essentially what is happening is that the recovering addict is getting further and further away from their initial decision to quit drinking and drugging.
The foundation of recovery is physical sobriety. You have to be clean and sober, period. Anything less and you cannot grow.
First pillar of support: People
Especially in early recovery, your main support will come from other people. This is based on the fact that we cannot recover on our own; that we can’t do it ourselves. We need help. So getting through the initial shock of sobriety is going to require some networking with positive people in recovery who are on the same path as you are.
This is why 12 step programs stress meeting attendance and sponsorship. Why these are not requirements, they provide useful shortcuts to building a solid network.
The younger you are, the more important this recovery network is.
The less time you’ve been sober, the more important this recovery network is.
That’s why it is the first pillar of support….it is similar to a foundation in that it needs to come early in recovery in order to build up lasting relationships to carry you through to into long term sobriety.
Second pillar of support: Growth
The idea of personal growth is another pillar in your recovery structure. Without this pillar, drifting into relapse territory becomes a real possibility.
Personal growth in recovery is about more than just growing in terms of recovery related issues. It’s about becoming a better person as a whole. This means that your recovery will benefit if you grow in seemingly unrelated areas, such as education or physical health and well being.
Why is this the case? Why not just focus heavily on recovery efforts and relapse prevention tactics?
The reason is self esteem.
Building our self esteem is important in recovery, because doing so is like insurance against relapse. When you value yourself and your life, you become less likely to sacrifice it to drugs and alcohol. When you make great strides and progress in your life, you place a higher value on yourself and are less likely to abuse yourself in any way.
This is the power of self esteem. It creates caring for self. Which brings us to the final pillar of support:
Third pillar of support: Caring for self
Caring for self is recovery in action. What recovery program would not endorse this principle? Simply caring for yourself is a powerful technique in its own right, and is part of the positive feedback loop that is created with self esteem.
Some recovering addicts have a block to this pillar. We have abused our bodies and our minds for so long with drugs and alcohol, that taking care of ourselves and treating our bodies with kindness can feel foreign and awkward.
That’s why this is the third pillar of support….it takes time for the feedback loop to complete and actually get people to this point. That’s why we have to go through the motions at first and just have faith in the process and start pushing ourselves to grow in different ways and to connect with other recovering addicts. The loop will eventually come full circle and the benefits of those actions will start paying off and we’ll start feeling better about ourselves.
That’s all the structure you really need
These 3 pillars are all you really need for a successful recovery. Everything else is window dressing!