Recovery is a process.
Now that we have established the creative theory of recovery, we now have to take a look at the process of getting there.
We don’t become addicted overnight, and we don’t wake up one day to be fully “cured,” either. Recovery is an on-going process. This is true regardless of the recovery program being used. No existing program offers an immediate, one-time cure.
So any and all recovery programs out there only offer on-going solutions. My personal belief is that this is always going to be a permanent limitation in addiction and recovery. The best we can hope for is a program of living that arrests the disease.
The 12 step model says “do this step,” and “do that step,” while the creative theory of recovery says “These are the processes you have to go through, figure out how to get there.” Neither path is wrong or right. Both lead to healthy recovery.
So let’s take a closer look at how processes work in a successful recovery:
First, understand that the recovering person must go through not just a process, but a series of processes. If recovery (or addiction) were one-dimensional, then there would likely just be one process to go through in treatment. But addiction is complicated, and so the solution is necessarily holistic and complicated as well.
For example, one process for someone in recovery might be “learning how to communicate their feelings.” Another process might be “learning how to have fun without drugs and alcohol.” Notice that these two processes are completely unrelated, yet I would argue that both are essential in the long run for recovery. Note, too, that each process can be stretched out over an entire lifetime, with new layers of information being discovered as time goes on.
Take the idea of “learning to communicate our feelings.” In early recovery, before the process has really even started, a recovering addict might not even be able to identify and acknowledge their true emotions, because they’ve been self-medicating and covering them up for so long. Now jump forward to 5 years clean and sober: that same recovering addict can now step back from a situation, process their feelings, and then communicate them honestly and openly with another individual, thus increasing their overall health and emotional stability (not to mention they avoid medicating their feelings now with drugs). So what happened?
They went through a process. Somehow they went from not being able to even acknowledge their feelings, to communicating them openly. That involves a process. To be more exact, that involves a learning process. The person had to learn and do several things:
1) Start acknowledging that feelings exist and that they can experience them
2) Start consciously increasing their own awareness so that they can identify those feelings
3) Learn how to identify, interpret, and then communicate those feelings to others in a rational manner (i.e., no shouting matches)
4) And so on…
So this is just one of many processes that are important for long term recovery, and the process of “learning to communicate feelings” probably breaks down into even more steps than what I have listed here. This is complicated stuff. (Addiction is complicated, remember!)
Consider, too, that this process continues indefinitely. For example, I am still learning more and more when it comes to communicating feelings openly. I find that, although I have come a long way, I can always push myself a bit further; be a bit more honest and open. I might have learned the lesson long ago, but new layers of information have since been discovered. This is growth and progression in recovery, part of the learning process.
Is it possible to come up with a list of necessary processes for recovery?
Perhaps. But recognize that many people will go through completely different experiences in order to achieve the same results in some cases. In other words, people might go through the exact same process, but it will look nothing alike from the outside. A good example of this is the third step in AA: turning our will and our life over to a higher power. Two recovering addicts can work this step into their lives, yet do so in a completely different manner. And both can stay clean and sober. Neither is right or wrong. Two people going through the same process, only in different ways. Yet both achieve the same outcome. Both achieve meaningful sobriety.
This is part of the mystery of recovery: we are all the same but different. We work the same steps but in vastly different ways. We all learn how to live sober, but our experiences in doing so vary widely. We are all on the same journey, but it is so different for each person.
How have you embraced the process of recovery today?