If Growth in Recovery was Linear, Then Getting Clean and Sober Would...

If Growth in Recovery was Linear, Then Getting Clean and Sober Would be Easy

Praire plateaus

Getting clean and sober is far from easy.

One of the reasons that achieving long term sobriety is difficult is due to how we grow.

You see, we don’t really make growth in recovery as a slow and steady progression. It is a bit trickier than that, and this is part of the reason why relapse rates are so high.

The world has us fooled.

Most of the experiences we go through offer “linear” growth. This means that we make progress or learn new things at a fairly steady and predictable rate.

For example, a person without much experience at it might decide to learn how to cook. Learning to cook, like many other learning activities, is clearly a linear growth process. You might learn some techniques, try out a few recipes, and all the while you’re constantly getting instant feedback as to how you are doing (based on how your meals come out).

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Now cooking is a good example because it truly is linear–you could learn a few things and make some simple and effective dishes, but you could also scale this out to where master chefs are putting together complicated entrees that are bordering on being true art.

The point here is that while learning to cook, you can either put in a little effort, and get some decent results, or you can really push yourself to learn as much as you can, and then get some fantastic results. That’s what linear growth looks like…..put in a little, get out a little. Put in a lot, and get out a lot. Linear.

Recovery doesn’t work this way

If only recovery were as easy as cooking, right?

So the big secret in recovery is that the growth model is not linear. It’s not “put in a little, get a little bit out of it.” Instead, it’s more like “Put in a little, then….relapse.”

Why is this?

Because growth in recovery is not linear. If it was, then we would see a whole lot more people make it to 30 days clean and beyond. But it’s not. So what kind of growth do we experience in recovery?

Exponential. That’s the kind of growth where something doubles, over and over again. Sort of like how the human population has grown over time. That’s the kind of growth that starts out very, very slowly, but then it explodes later on. That’s the growth curve that you are on in recovery.


If you’re a newcomer in recovery, the implications are clear: things will get better. But it is much more than that: things will get awesome! Truly, once you start working recovery and approach your recovery from a holistic point of view, the benefits start multiplying over time.

If you’ve been around recovery for a while, then you are probably already enjoying the benefits of a better life and things clicking into place.

But the biggest implication is this: look at the start of the curve when it comes to exponential growth. It starts out very, very slowly.

This is the frustrating part in recovery, the reason why so many newcomers will relapse before they get a chance to start enjoying the benefits of a life lived sober.

Trust me, I know the feeling. You might feel like you are putting your all into recovery, pushing yourself every single day to grow spiritually and continue to do the right thing, and you might feel like it is all for nothing; that your efforts just aren’t paying off.

This is normal.

Remember, it’s not a linear curve. Recovery is a battle in so many different arenas–you are physically getting your body clean and sober, then you are on an emotional roller coaster, you probably have quite a bit of mental fog clouding your thinking, and most of us are spiritually bankrupt when we start out. It can be overwhelming. And to truly recover, you have to make growth in all of those areas.

Are you starting to see why recovery involves exponential growth and not linear? We are taking on so much at once, and the best we can do is make small amounts of progress in each area. Over time, these will add up to a lot–in fact they will provide us with a truly awesome life in recovery. But getting through the initial phase of growth can be tough, and many will relapse before they “round the corner” on the exponential growth curve.

Once you are making progress and growth in all areas of your life, things will start to get exciting. Synergies will develop…that’s a fancy way of saying that progress in one area of your life will enhance the progress in other areas as things start really coming together. These will not be connections that you could have expected or necessarily predicted. Life becomes an exciting adventure again, something we never could have imagined when we were still actively using drugs and alcohol.

Ask yourself:

“Am I willing to go through the initial struggle in recovery in order to reap the benefits later on?”

And also:

“Am I appreciating the benefits of recovery that have multiplied in my life?”

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