If we look at people who are successful in recovery, is it possible that most (or all) of them go through the same basic processes? If so, this could be useful information to have.
The creative theory of recovery states that a successful life in recovery is made up of a group of processes. One process might be “forming a new network of sober friends.”
So we want to come up with a list of processes that an addict or alcoholic has to go through in order to achieve meaningful, long term sobriety.
Part of the problem with describing recovery this way is deciding on the level of abstraction and detail to include. For example, the above process of “forming new sober friendships” could be broken down into:
1) Finding new places to go other than bars
2) Eliminating unhealthy relationships (drinking buddies)
3) Reaching out to people in new places (work, school, family, community, church, AA meetings, etc.)
4) Changing old habits that might lead back to dangerous places
5) and so on.
Notice that each one of those items on the list is itself another process. In trying to describe the creative life in recovery, we are going to need a systematic way of breaking things down in order to come up with an effective list.
The same could be true of the 12 step program. The summarized version of the 12 steps is
1) Find God.
2) Clean house.
3) Help others.
Those are the 12 steps, condensed. But that’s not enough detail there to be very helpful. So they expanded those 3 ideas into 12 steps. They could have expanded them even further, and gone into more detail. But at some point it becomes too overwhelming, and you have to factor in this as well:
People go through the same processes in completely different ways.
So you have to build enough flexibility into a program of recovery to account for that. Think back to the creative theory of recovery and some of the ideas for replacement strategies: one person might use meditation as a replacement strategy, someone else might use Tai Chi, and another might use oil painting. If each of these individuals passionately pursues their art at a spiritual level, and incorporates it into their life with a holistic model of recovery, then each will be successful in their own way. But based on this, you would not design a program of recovery using oil painting as the “cure” for addiction….even though for one individual that might become a major part of their solution.
So different people can achieve recovery through a different path. The process is ultimately the same in the end, but the means of getting there can be vastly different.
Not only that, but the individual processes that make up the whole of recovery can vary greatly from person to person.
Individuals might need to go through custom processes too
Consider the idea that someone was abused as a child, and eventually turned to drugs and alcohol. They have resentments and issues to deal with regarding the abuse, and need to work through those issues in early recovery if they are going to stay sober in the long run. This is, of course, a process.
Part of that process might be forgiveness. The person might have to forgive someone in order to let go of the resentment that is eating them alive and pushing them to drink. Letting go of that resentment is a process. Finding the willingness to forgive someone is a process.
Realize that not all of us will have these types of issues. Some of us in recovery might not have a need to forgive anyone. (But we all probably have resentments. Universal.)
So one process might be universal (letting go of resentments) and another might be more specialized (needing to forgive someone).
A good program of recovery will focus on the universal processes, and also have a mechanism to utilize custom processes. This is complicated stuff. The program of AA achieves this largely through steps 4 and 5, where an addict writes down information in an act of self-discovery and introspection, then communicates those findings with their sponsor and their higher power. The process is flexible enough to handle, for example, issues from a person’s childhood, or deep resentments against an ex-spouse.
So we need to find a universal set of processes that can handle all situations in recovery. People need to grow in different areas of their lives. I’m starting to get a feel for the overall categories though: physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and relationships. I think all of the critical processes in recovery can probably fit neatly into those categories.
We’ll dive further into that on the next post.