When first entering rehab, a lot of us think that we just have a drug or alcohol problem but we soon hear from others in recovery and realize that, “drugs or alcohol are only 10 percent of the problem, the rest is you.”
Recovery from addiction involves the healing of all dimensions of ourselves, not only the physical but, also, the intellectual, emotional, social, vocational and spiritual dimensions of ourselves. Involving an improvement in self-awareness and self-image, we realize and accept gradually that recovery is a lifelong process of restoring ourselves to better health.
But, while this may sound easy, recovery doesn’t happen overnight and for many of us, it is a tall order. As the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text says: “This sounds like a big order and we can’t do it all at once. We didn’t become addicted in one day, so, remember, easy does it.”
A simple comparison could be restoring one’s self to health to that of restoring an abandoned house to a livable condition, a process that definitely doesn’t happen overnight. It takes the right tools and resources. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes effort.
Likewise, recovery takes patience, empathy, forgiveness and compassion. It takes honesty, open mindedness and willingness. It takes loving and accepting one’s self unconditionally. And, it takes dedication and perseverance – not giving up, no matter what, even if one stumbles and falls once, twice or even multiple times.
Moreover, just like a house, which needs constant upkeep and maintenance, so does our recovery. Without constant attention, our recovery can stagnate and our foundation can crumble and collapse. In other words, “if you’re not working on your recovery, you’re working on a relapse.”
But, while this process may seem daunting, we learn early in recovery that help and support are readily available.
Our family and loved ones can be great supporters of our recovery, but sometimes they might not understand this lifelong process of recovery. So, in addition to family and loved ones, 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, can provide a collective strength, encouragement and hope to those in recovery.
By hearing and sharing life experiences with each other, recovering addicts and alcoholics can learn how to handle life on life’s terms without using. Additionally, 12-step programs provide the opportunity to build new and healthy relationships; to learn new and change behaviors through self-examination and the practice of guiding principles, and; to serve and help others in recovery.
However, because we all came to a life of recovery differently, and all are unique in our own ways, recovery can never be quite the same for one another – no one way to recover is better than another. And, because it is lifelong requiring constant attention and maintenance, it’s not a race, nor do we ever graduate.
Ultimately, recovery is a personal, lifelong journey of fulfillment and purpose – discovering a renewed sense of value, purpose and self-awareness. It is available to us all as long as we first have the humility and courage to ask for help, and then stay the course by being true to form – true to others and ourselves.