One of the key principles of the creative theory of recovery is the replacement strategy.
A replacement strategy is just what it sounds like. You replace one thing with another. For example, instead of hanging out with friends and getting high, someone might replace this activity with going to the gym and working out.
At a very basic level, you might replace a beer with a glass of orange juice. This is the basic physical category. You have to stop ingesting chemicals if you’re going to recover.
At the next level, you might think about replacing a night out at the bar with a sober evening with the kids. This might be the how-I-spend-my-time category.
Then there is the “my-philosophy-of-life-category.” Instead of the self-centered, drug seeking behavior, you might replace this with a genuine interest in the welfare of others (particularly those who are trying to recover).
And on another level, in addiction, you might be drinking and consuming drugs, full of self-will, and generally trying to muscle your way through life. This might be replaced in recovery by reliance on a higher power, a growing faith, and earnestly seeking guidance and direction to help you live.
In each case–in each category–you are replacing something bad with something that is beneficial in recovery.
That’s what recovery is: you’re replacing bad habits with good ones.
Recovery is a change for the better. In each case, the new behavior or mindset is superior to the old one.
There are many of these “levels,” or categories. New ones will be revealed as you progress.
These levels we are mentioning are just generic categories of your life. They are not rigid things that you necessarily have to consider or think about. But when we take a step back and examine the successful life in recovery, we can see that people are changing and growing on a whole bunch of different levels.
All of the tiny little changes that start happening in recovery are not random. We are not going to get lucky and just start replacing our bad habits, bad behaviors, and bad thinking with good ones if we don’t have some sort of road map. That’s why we need a replacement strategy.
Having a strategy means that we are utilizing a set of guidelines and principles to help us in recovery. We aren’t just reacting to life as it happens any more. We are planning and creating a positive future.
Some people have come to call this “working a program,” as in “working a program of recovery.” The term program has grown with some stigma attached to it, and I prefer not to use it, really. The creative theory of recovery is more than just a “program” to get off of drugs and alcohol–it is all-encompassing, holistic, and large enough to contain any “program” that people might choose to follow.
I’m not saying programs are bad, just that the creative theory of recovery seeks to describe a life of recovery that goes beyond what is currently offered in any program that might be out there. It can accommodate these programs. It plays nice with them. But the creative theory of recovery seeks to move beyond them.
A replacement strategy must be holistic, because our lives are made up of so many different “levels,” or categories. There are so many ways that addiction and alcoholism consumes our lives and affects our pattern of living. It affects our relationships, our finances, our friendships, and so on. Addiction is complicated. Any replacement strategy that is going to be effective needs to address this.
What are some examples of a replacement strategy?
1) Twelve step programs – such as AA or NA. These are widespread, free, and offer an excellent social network. As you’ll hear in the meetings, completely immersing yourself in the fellowship, in the steps, and in the literature is the surest path to success. As a replacement strategy, 12 step programs seem to address many of the “categories” or “levels” discussed above, but they are possibly lacking in some areas when judged as a holistic approach. (this is arguable, anyone care to address this in the comments?)
2) Religion – This can be much more than going to church, and I know of at least a few individuals who “work a recovery program” strictly through their religion and their church community. Their is a fellowship at church as well, and it can therefore function as a social network, much like AA or NA can. One drawback with religion is that it is not as concentrated as a 12 step program, because the community does not share the common goal of sobriety. Nevertheless, religion and/or church remains a viable replacement strategy.
3) Holistic activities – that also contain a philosophy for living, like Tai Chi.
4) Personal growth – This is a viable replacement strategy for overcoming addiction. Success builds on success. A strong emphasis on learning and developing, both intellectually and emotionally. Networking with like-minded individuals. Holistic approach.
My opinion is that regardless of which replacement strategy is chosen, all successful paths eventually converge on this last point (holistic personal growth). Even if a recovering addict remains active in their original “springboard” to recovery (such as AA, for example) they will eventually start addressing areas of growth outside of the “program” while creating their new life in recovery.
Next up? We’ll look at relationships, and how they fit into the creative theory of recovery.