Recovery is not something you just fall into because you stopped your addiction. It is imperative that you view Recovery as Active, Alive, Constantly Changing, a Verb…and something you never take for granted.
Yes; there are simplistic things you can do (e.g. eat healthy, exercise, attend meetings, avoid triggers, go to work), but unless you really reinvent yourself, you will always be at risk for relapse. “What does this mean — Capital R, dynamic, a verb? I thought I just did what I was told and followed the program.” Yes and No!
Until you understand the extent of the practices, habits, beliefs, emotions, you developed to be in an abusive relationship with a substance, you will always be at risk. Abusive because you became brainwashed by the substance to sabotage your own life for that substance. In the same way you must understand how you became brainwashed by another, you also need to understand how you became brainwashed with your addiction.
Recovery With a Capital R: Revisit Your History
With a competent therapist, dive into your history with a commitment to a new understanding. This practice is not about recanting war stories, but rather about seeing how off course you became in life. You need a dynamic understanding of what your normal became vs what is normal enough for you to stay on the path of life. For this article, we will say “normal” is behavior that allows you to become who you want to be and fulfill your dreams. Now, this is tricky because of the brainwashing that happens. Have you heard yourself or others say things like:
- “I could stop, I just don’t want to.”
- “I like to party, so why would I stop?”
- “What’s wrong? Everyone I know does what I do so we can’t all be that far off.”
- “I don’t have to; I just enjoy it!”
It takes a skilled therapist to shoot non-judgmental holes in all of these buckets. Now, fast forward and think about how different versions of all these conversations can rear their ugly heads to sabotage your recovery. Capital R Recovery says “Look how masterful I was at convincing myself that I could stop, I just didn’t want to,” or that I had a great life.
Capital R says “I understand brainwashing because I explored how crazy my thinking became — and crazy thinking is not part of my recovery now!” Be active in dissecting the brainwashing and eventually you — not your therapist — can shoot holes in all those buckets. Until you do, they will try to come back in different clothes:
- “We haven’t partied for two years, I’m sure we can now.” NOT!
- “Just a sip or just one.” NOT!
- “We deserve it after all…” NOT
I see so many clients who, when they relapse, speak and act as though they have never visited recovery. You have to create an awareness of the recovery discourse and the using discourse and not let yourself be sabotaged by your old using brainwashing. By having an active, alive investigation into your brainwashing — writing it down, discussing it, role playing — you will be better equipped to take an active role in dismissing it when it appears.
Recovery With a Capital R: Making Sense of Your Emotional World
When you are numbing yourself, you are not in the process of working through your emotions in a healthy way, for lack of better words. If there is a death, we have a grieving process we go through and we can get to the other side of that grief. The loss always has a place in our heart, but we don’t speak about it as though it happened yesterday.
When you are in your addiction, you numb if there is a loss. Until you go through a healthy emotional grieving process, you are at risk for sounding as though the divorce or loss of a loved one happened yesterday. You’re also at risk for becoming stuck in resentment and or melancholy. Both of these states can paralyze you emotionally in life. Capital R Recovery digs into these losses and allows you go through a healthy process so you can love again.
If someone hurts/betrays you, we have a process we go through so we can move through the hurt/betrayal, get our lessons and look forward. When you numb yourself, you don’t sort things through and you are at risk for another hurt/betrayal in different clothing to come into your life. You develop resentment and wallow in the resentment with your addiction. Again, Capital R Recovery digs into these events, has you sort out your part, grieve the loss, get your lessons and move forward ready to engage with people again in a different way.
If you are numbing away your successes as well, you are not building your self-esteem, receiving, or taking in all the lessons of how this success happened. When you need the confidence to say “No” to relapse, and you haven’t been filling the bucket of acknowledgment/validation, you may not feel good enough to keep the wolf at bay. Capital R Recovery has you dig into these successes and understand everything you need to understand, tap into and internalize these important emotions. There is so much shame and poor self-esteem with addictions — why would you short change yourself with the successes you have accomplished?
All this sorting out takes time, competence, accountability, understanding, cleanup and new action. It may feel overwhelming emotionally when you are new to recovery, but when you’re an active participant in the sorting out process, you can calm your emotional body down and actually develop a strong mind vs what I call a “monkey mind” — which is the constant chatter and often negative thoughts that don’t support you.
The most successful Capital R Recovery starts with a strong peaceful mind. Do the work to have yours!
This article was originally published on Recovery.org
© 2019 Dr. Anne Brown; Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Author of Backbone Power The Science of Saying No. Permission needed for any form of reproduction.
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