“Recovery is a process of change through
which individuals work to improve their own health and well-being,
live a self-directed life, and strive to achieve their full potential.”
— U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 2010 —
Sunday October 4, 2015 thousands of Americans celebrated in the National Mall at the Unite to Face Addiction Rally. Music by Sheryl Crow and Steven Tyler led a star studded concert. The fundamental purpose of the event was to begin chipping away at the stigma of addiction. So few people realize what it really is, what recovery is, that the short and irresponsible answer is to deny work which holds people back on changing their lives for the better.
Their short description,
The time has come to UNITE To Face Addiction and stand up for recovery. On October 4, 2015 a transformative event will take place in Washington, DC that will ignite and build a movement to address one of the most pressing health issues of our time.
While addiction and recovery is kept behind the doors of judgment and invisibility , the fact is, millions of recovering people conquer their addiction, one day at a time. Anonymously meeting in small alano clubs and church basements all over the world, addicts quietly serve one another’s mastering sobriety. Passing on the street, barely a nod is exchanged as the rest of the world has stigmatized both the disease and the recovery. While great galas are thrown to party about conquering other diseases, the word drunk remains a punchline or pejorative in HR’s everywhere. The hosts of UNITE To Face Addiction hope to change that.
The Standard on Addiction Recovery
Whole Life Recovery, a name carefully, mindfully chosen, reflects the facts. Recovery is not only stopping the use of alcohol / drugs but the adoption of an entirely new way of life; body, mind and spirit. It radiates from the breath to the outstretched hand. It means a clear head and a lighted spirit. The cloudy, misshapen consciousness is surrendered in the relief of clarity.
FOUR DIMENSIONS OF RECOVERY
Health: as addicts, we must recover our health by overcoming and managing our disease, while also living in a physically and emotionally healthy way.
Home: recovery from addiction means having a stable and safe place to live.
Purpose: recovery from addiction means having meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society
Community: addiction recovery means having relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship and love.
PRINCIPLES OF AN EFFECTIVE RECOVERY
We start our journey into recovery on the principle of hope that there is a solution and that we can recover. Many times we find this hope in a 12 Step fellowship through witnessing others who have recovered. We come to accept our condition as a disease and are willing to take actions to recover from it. This small leap of faith — based on the experience of other addicts — gives us the courage to work the 12 Steps. We ultimately address all the areas of our lives, and in doing so reclaim the life we were originally meant to live. Acceptance and hope are the catalysts of the recovery process.
Taking charge of our lives is the principle foundation for recovery. Once we accept we are suffering from a disease and take responsibility for our recovery, we make the choice as to which path to take to achieve our goal. We feel empowered by taking an active role in choosing and working with the services and supports that assist us in our recovery. By doing so, we gain the strength and clarity to make decisions about our recovery, and regain control over our lives.
12 Step fellowships play an invaluable role in addiction recovery . Fellow addicts encourage and engage with each other, providing each other with the support needed to recover and, more importantly, to maintain recovery. Getting support from 12 Step fellowships has proven to be the most effective means for us to recover. We need the help of each other to overcome a disease that is much bigger than anyone of us alone. Studies have shown those of us who are involved with Fellowships often benefit from improved social functioning, material and family adjustments, and improved psychological adjustments. Working the 12 Steps with the support of the Fellowship enables us to develop an active spiritual life, a greater sense of self-reliance and self-confidence, and a decreased dependence on others.
Another contributing factor in our recovery process is the involvement of people who believe in our ability to recover. In addition to fellow addicts in recovery, this group includes family members, providers, faith groups, community members, and other allies that form vital support networks. Through these relationships, we discover a sense of belonging, empowerment, and autonomy.
It is a Process
Each of us has distinct needs, strengths, preferences, goals, culture, and background – which determine our process in recovery. Unlike other diseases, addiction cannot be treated by a doctor giving us a generic pill to “cure” us. The disease of addiction affects each of us differently, damaging different aspects of our lives — which need to be addressed for our recovery to be successful. For example, addiction drives some to crime and into legal problems, whereas others suffer marital or financial problems. Addressing and resolving these problems have to be part of our recovery process to ensure we don’t go back to using drugs, which has been our usual way of coping with life’s problems. Fortunately the 12 Steps not only help us overcome our disease but also provide us with the tools to deal with all of life’s problems.
Recovery from the disease of addiction is not linear, and many of us relapse during our journey into recovery. This is part of our recovery process. In fact, relapse usually teaches us things we needed to learn about our disease. It does not mean we have failed or that we cannot recover. The basis for our recovery, though, is simple: Abstinence from drugs and a fellowship of people who can support us along the way.
An effective recovery should encompass our whole life, which means that all aspects of our well-being should be taken into account. In 12 Step programs, they say that addiction to drugs is only a symptom of our problem. What happens then is that addicts in recovery can point to improvements in all facets of their lives. We finally get to work on rebuilding all the things on which our addiction wreaked havoc. This means we work on improving – or winning back –family relations, our jobs, education, health, spirituality, creativity, social networks, recreation, and community participation – all the elements that define a healthy and human life.
An effective recovery should address areas of our lives that may be contributing factors to causing or contributing to our primary disease of addiction. Among these factors are psychological issues like trauma and depression. The experience of trauma (such as physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, and disaster) is often a precursor to, or associated with, alcohol and drug use, mental health problems, and related issues. It is important to treat each of our illnesses or conditions as separate issues and seek appropriate help for them.
Some of us may need professional help for detoxification or other mental or physical ailments. It is important to recognize the limitations of a12 Step program and not treat it as a medical or a psychological form of treatment. For example, if you are suffering from diabetes, working the Steps will not cure you, although its principles will help you come to terms and cope with it. We need to go to the right professional for treatment. This is all part and parcel of our recovery – which is ultimately about taking responsibility for ourselves and taking care of ourselves. There is a saying in the fellowship that poses the question: “are you willing to go to any length to get sober and stay that way.” And “any length” often means getting help from doctors or psychotherapists for our non-drug issues.
THE STAGES OF CHANGE IN RECOVERY
Precontemplation (Not Ready)
Contemplation (Getting Ready)
People may differ in their time in each stage but the order of the stages is not variable. A person must collect the benefits, accomplish the work and conquer the pitfalls of each stage before moving on to the next. It is a building process of steady accumulation to reduce resistance, facilitate progress, and prevent relapse. Along the way a person will most likely fall back and begin collecting again.
Precontemplation (Not Ready)
As far as I’m concerned, I don’t have any problems that need changing. I’m not The problem one. It doesn’t make much sense for me to be here.
People in the Precontemplation stage do not intend to take action in the foreseeable future, usually measured as the next six months. Being uninformed or under informed about the consequences of one’s behavior may cause a person to be in the Precontemplation stage. Multiple unsuccessful attempts at change can lead to demoralization about the ability to change. Both the uninformed and under informed tend to avoid reading, talking, or thinking about their high-risk behaviors. They are often characterized in other theories as resistant, unmotivated, or unready for help. The fact is, traditional programs were not ready for such individuals and were not designed to meet their needs.
Contemplation (Getting Ready)
I have a problem and I really think I should work on it. I’m hoping this place will help me to better understand myself.
Contemplation is the stage in which people intend to change in the next six months. They are more aware of the pros of changing, but are also acutely aware of the cons. This weighting between the costs and benefits of changing can produce profound ambivalence that can cause people to remain in this stage for long periods of time. This phenomenon is often characterized as chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination. Individuals in the Contemplation stage are not ready for traditional action-oriented programs that expect participants to act immediately.
Preparation is the stage in which people intend to take action in the immediate future, usually measured as the next month. Typically, they have already taken some significant action in the past year. These individuals have a plan of action, such as joining a health education class, consulting a counselor, talking to their physician, buying a self-help book, or relying on a self-change approach. These are the people who should be recruited for action-oriented programs.
I am doing something about the problems that had been bothering me. Anyone can talk about changing: I’m actually doing something about it.
Action is the stage in which people have made specific overt modifications in their lifestyles within the past six months. Because action is observable, the overall process of behavior change often has been equated with action. But in the TTM, Action is only one of six stages. Typically, not all modifications of behavior count as Action in this Model. In most applications, people have to attain a criterion that scientists and professionals agree is sufficient to reduce risk of disease.
It worries me that I might slip back on a problem I have already changed so I am here to seek help. I thought once 1 had resolved the problem 1 would be free of it, but sometimes I still find myself struggling with it.
Maintenance is the stage in which people have made specific overt modifications in their lifestyles and are working to prevent relapse; however, they do not apply change processes as frequently as do people in Action. While in the Maintenance stage, people are less tempted to relapse and grow increasingly more confident that they can continue their changes.
As with anything which separates us, understanding is the only bridge. There was a time when every dis-ease was thought to be an evil godless state of human life. With each discovery, with comprehensive research, but mostly with an open heart, humanity leaps forward from juvenile myths and puny judgments. Addiction is still a mystery to most, even the addict. Recovery is coming into focus which liberates everyone, addict and non-addict, from the shackles of misunderstanding. Everyone will benefit from their own Whole Life Recovery into the light of understanding and bridging humanity.