What is Recovery?
Dear Dr. Steve:
so confused I dont know what to do. I feel torn in four different directions all at
once. I know I need help but Im absolutely paralyzed with fear. Im afraid of
who I am. Im afraid of who Ive been. Im afraid of who I would turn in to
if I actually stopped all that I need to stop doing. But most of all, Im afraid of
trying and discovering that nothing I try works. Then what would I do? I know I have to
stop doing cocaine or it will eventually kill me or Ill eventually kill myself.
Ive lost all that a man can lose but I keep going out there for moremore dope,
more booze, more women, more abuse, more, more, more. I kinda know about A.A. I know that
people who go to A.A. become reformed alcoholics or whatever they call it. I guess
Id like to know more about what I have to do to become a reformed alcoholic.
that things are bad for you now, but perhaps these hard times can serve as a catalyst for
turning your life around. Many people join the fellowship of A.A. and other 12-Step
programs to do just thatturn their lives around. The way they turn their lives
around is by embracing and working a process of change referred to as Recovery.
is a way of thinking, acting, behaving, and relating to others that promotes and
reinforces the physical, behavioral, emotional, psychological, and spiritual sobriety of
an individual. The foundation of Recovery is: 1.) Total and absolute abstinence from those
substances, behaviors, and/or people to which an individual is addicted, 2.) Active
involvement in a 12-Step fellowship that focuses on how to maintain total and absolute
abstinence, 3.) A [re]connection with ones spiritual creator.
of Recovery is to stop acting out ones addiction(s). Recovery is a process that
empowers an individual to stop acting out ones addiction by developing: 1.) A sober
identity that acknowledges ones inability to exert their control over substances,
behaviors, and/or people, 2.) A flexible set of skills that enables the individual to
achieve and maintain abstinence, 3.) A life-style that minimizes exposure to personal,
interpersonal, spiritual, circumstantial, and environmental cues that are stressors and
therefore set-ups for relapse, 4.) A flexible set of skills with which to solve the
challenges of maintaining abstinence in particular and life in general, 5.) A flexible set
of skills that will empower the individual to effectively relate to others.
Abstinence is a desirable outcome for every individual but abstinence is not Recovery.
Recovery is a process of personal and spiritual growth in which an individual examines the
relationship they have with themselves, the relationship they have with the people in
their lives, and the relationship they have with their Higher Power. This examination
takes place within the context of active participation in a 12-Step program that focuses
on addiction to a specific substance, behavior, or person. Active participation means: 1.)
An individual regularly attends support group meetings, 2.) Establishes a relationship
with a mentor, called a sponsor, and 3.) Learns how to use the 12-Step program to maintain
a clean and sober way of thinking, acting, and relating to others.
Gorski describes Recovery as a developmental process in which there are six different
stages. In each stage there are tasks to be mastered and skills to be developed. If
a recovering person is unaware of this progression, unable to accomplish the task and gain
the skills, and/or lacks adequate treatment, that individual is vulnerable to relapse. The
following is a description of Terrence Gorskis Developmental Model of Recovery
transition stage begins at the point that an individual experiences an alcohol or drug
related problem. Once the process of addiction progresses, the individual will design a
series of strategies to attempt to control their use of their drugs and/or alcohol. The
transition period ends once the individual recognizes that no matter how many strategies
one devises to control their use of drugs and alcohol, these strategies are unsuccessful
and make the safe, controlled use of drugs and alcohol an impossibility.
stage, the central symptom is loss of control. The greatest obstacle to abstinence
at this stage of Recovery is the belief that an individual can control how often and how
much they may drink and drug. The individual is locked in a losing battle to prove to
themselves and others that they can use in a controlled manner. They may be able to
prove that they can control their drug and alcohol use but not for very long.
stage, the individual fights accepting that they are not normal drinkers and users
of drugs. As the progression of addiction causes more severe loss of control, an
individual must eventually acknowledge to themselves that theyre addictive users who
are not capable of controlled use. This admission does not come easily but it is a truth
that must be faced and owned before an individual can move on to the next developmental
the stabilization period the individual encounters the physical, emotional, and
psychological effects of being abstinent from all mood-altering substances. Physically,
the individual in this stage contends with the medical complications of withdrawal and the
medical complications of any other co-existing medical problems. Emotionally, the
individual encounters the awakening emotions that were repressed as their drug and alcohol
use medicated their emotions. Psychologically, the individual contends with the habituated
behaviors that enabled their use of drugs and alcohol to progress, the entrenched
attitudes that the individual relied on to deny and/or justify their alcohol and drug use,
and the belief system that was constructed to insulate themselves from the truth about
their drug and alcohol use. In addition, the individual learns to identify and manage
symptoms of brain dysfunction. Finally, the individual requires help in stabilizing the
circumstances of their life.
stressors that I just listed, singularly or in combination, is what sabotages an
individuals best attempts at maintaining abstinence at this stage of Recovery.
Individuals in this stage of Recovery relapse because theyre unable to cope with the
stress of the symptoms of brain dysfunction and physical cravings that follow
detoxification. It takes between 6 weeks and 6 months for a patient to learn to
master these symptoms with the correct therapy. The correct therapy is a must for people
at this stage of Recovery because the lack of stabilization management skills is the major
cause of inability to abstain during this second stage.
individual masters the stabilization management skills and transitions to the next stage,
early Recovery, the focus expands from stabilization management skills to include the
establishment of a life-style that is free of all mood-altering substances. An individual,
must be able to critically examine their life-style: 1.) the environment in which they
live, 2.) the people that they associate with, 3.) the way they structure their life
activity-wise and time-wise. Hard decisions must be made about where to live, with whom to
live, what friendships to maintain, what friendships to terminate, and how much time to
devote to 12-Step meetings. This is the stage of development where the recovering
individual stops intellectualizing what Recovery is and begins to internalize the
thoughts, behaviors, values, and choices of Recovery. This internalization process takes
place as an individual stops talking about what to do and begins to more and more
consistently do what they are supposed to do. This stage may last from one to two years.
reason a person may relapse in this stage is because they have not fully internalized the
values and skills of Recovery in order to form a style of life that is conducive to
values and choices of Recovery have been fully internalized and so reflected by the
individuals life-style which firmly rooted in Recovery, the individual then
transitions into the Middle Recovery Stage. At this point the focus of Recovery expands
even more to now include examining and healing the emotional wounds from the
does the individual continue to focus on abstinence, internalizing the values and skills
of Recovery, creating the necessary life-style to support abstinence, and healing the
emotional wounds of the past, the individuals Recovery program now beings to
incorporate the reestablishment of broken relationships with family members, new
occupational goals, and expanded social and recreational participation. At this point
of Recovery, the individual begins to venture out from the protected cocoon of the
Recovery community and begins to reintegrate into community at large. Although this is a
time of joy as the individual experiences more freedom than ever before since getting into
Recovery, this is also a time of great stress as the individual must begin to navigate an
ever expanding body of life problems in which the individual must apply their basic
the individual navigates their life problems and copes with the stress created by those
life problems is the determinant of abstinence or relapse in this stage of Recovery.
Recovery, once more the focus of Recovery expands to include the working through of those
personal issues that continue to be an obstacle to the overall emotional and spiritual
well-being of the individual. These issues tend to focus on 1.) healing issues in regards
to ones shame-based identity, 2.) taking ownership of and transforming the
individuals character defects, 3.) resolving areas of conflict between the
individual and the significant people in their life, 4.) working through issues that
pertain to the individuals fear of trust and emotional intimacy, 5.) examine issues
relevant to spiritually transformation.
cause of relapse during the late recovery period is either the inability to cope with the
stress of unresolved personal issues or an inability or unwillingness to develop a style
of personality functioning that is age appropriate.
maintenance stage is the ongoing and lifelong process of continued emotional and spiritual
growth and evolvement. Continued growth and development will insure the individual that
they will successfully negotiate future adult life transitions, manage an ever-widening
and varying series of life problems, and continue to guard against relapse. The
physiology of addiction lasts for the rest of a person's life. Any use of alcohol or drugs
will reactivate physiological, psychological, and social progression of the disease.
how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of
chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. series of
Insanity to Serenity.
addiction and alcoholism are diseases that are primary, progressive, chronic, prone to
relapse, and potentially fatal.
is a process of change, called Recovery, whose aim is to empower an individual to stop
acting out their addiction(s).
Recovery is a way of thinking, acting, behaving, and relating to others that promotes and
reinforces the physical, behavioral, emotional, psychological, and spiritual sobriety of
Recovery, there are six developmental stages to work through. In each developmental stage
there are tasks to be mastered and skills to be developed.
Recovery is a life long process that can empower any person who is so inclined to turn
their life around.