I am convinced that there are a number of fundamentals in recovery. We all have a different experience when getting clean and sober, but many of us will go through similar experiences, and in a lot of cases we can relate to each other about our recovery.
In the 12 step program, we could say that there are 12 fundamental principles, based on the 12 steps, that are needed in order to recover from alcoholism or addiction.
My experience has shown me that there are other principles, not only based on my own path in sobriety, but also based on what I have observed in others.
Furthermore, I am not interested in the fundamental principles of any program out there, I am only interested in the fundamental characteristics that produce success in recovering addicts and alcoholics. What seems to work for people? What actions help people the most in recovery? What attitudes, or mindsets, produce the best results?
With so many people who relapse, is it possible to find some common threads among the people who do stay clean and sober? I believe the answer is yes.
We can break the fundamentals of recovery down into 3 categories:
2) Attitudes / mindsets
3) Holistic growth
Structural fundamentals in recovery
Every person who gets clean and sober makes at least some level of structural changes in their lives. By this I am talking about how they structure their time, where they live, where they go to work, who they spend their time with, and so on. Not all of these things will change for every recovering addict, but at least some structural changes must occur in order to change our lives.
If you do not change the structure of your life when you get sober then you are probably setting yourself up for relapse. Recovery represents huge change.
If you have gone to 12 step meetings you have probably heard people talk about changing “people, places, and things.” This refers to structural change. If we stay stuck in our old patterns we are not going to stay sober for long. We need structural change.
One example of a structural change in my life was when I checked into long term treatment. This was a big move that had a large impact on my life. Not everyone will need to go to long term treatment, but this represents the fundamental change that is necessary for success. They say you have to change “everything” in order to recover. That is what structural change is about. In my example, I had to get rid of some using friends, I had to get rid of a job that was no good for me, and I had to find some positive people to be around. These changes might be different for other people in recovery, but we will all have structural changes that need to be made.
We can also look at those who relapse and gain more insight about why structural change is important. Those who fail in recovery did not make necessary changes. They held back in some way–perhaps by clinging to old friends, old behaviors, or some ritual from their past that leads them back to their drug of choice. Anyone who does not make it in recovery can clearly look back and say “I did not make the necessary changes in order to recover.”
When we talk about structural changes in recovery, we are really talking about finding daily action that works for us and helps us to stay clean.
So, is structure fundamental to recovery? Yes. We need to make big, deep, meaningful changes in our life and in our life structure in order to recover.
Next time we will take a look at some of the fundamental attitudes and mindsets of recovery.