What to expect in this episode:
- Is recovery (just) abstinence?
- You won’t be protected from relapse unless you learn to change and grow through the underlying issues
- The fastest way to learn, grow, and change is to be in an immersive environment. That’s why the recovery community is so important.
Is Recovery Abstinence?
The fundamental question is: What is Recovery?
People don’t ask it because they think they know the answer, but answering that question wrong leads to heartache and tragedy for millions of families.
Recovery is not abstinence. It’s not NOT using the substance you were addicted to. If recovery was just abstinence, it would be like taking a picture of a person 3 weeks a month after they were actively using and that person if you look at them is the exact same person they were when they were using, minus the substances.
Well, that person is going to use again. WHY? Because they are the exact same person they were when they were using. As soon as you remove whatever the block is, whether its environment, commitment, things going well, anything really, they’re going to respond and behave in the same way they did before because they haven’t changed.
The way to understand recovery is to understand that it is abstinence PLUS. Not using the substance I am addicted to and perhaps even all substances PLUS learning, changing and growing. It’s the learning, changing and growing that protects me from relapse. I no longer have the same thoughts, feelings and responses that I did before; therefore I can navigate life, environment, relationships, success, lack of success, and all the stuff that comes along in life in new ways because I am continually growing. The real work of recovery is about that growth.
A deep question is: How do I do that? How do I engage in recovery and learn, change and grow?
Anybody who knows me knows that I do not think that therapy is the fastest or the most direct path to change. It’s a part of the puzzle but not the whole puzzle. I’m not a fundamentalist, I like the 12 steps program a lot, but I’m quite open-minded about how transformation happens.
I will say that an immersive experience is the fastest way to learn and grow. An easy analogy would be like learning a language. If I want to learn Spanish (I’m in California so it makes sense), how much studying am I going to have to do from a book to be able to speak Spanish? I personally took about 9 classes and I can order a burrito, taco, say hello, say goodbye, but if you drop me in the middle of Mexico I will not be able to ask how to leave.
If you drop me in Mexico and I have to live there for 3, 4, 5, 6 months, a year… through necessity I am going to immerse myself in the culture and with those people and then I am going to have to learn the language to get by, unless I actively stop myself.
I think recovery actually happens the same way, it’s learning through culture. It’s why I’m a huge fan of recovery support systems; it’s why I’m a big backer of treatment communities, group treatment. There’s something about being immersed in the culture of recovery where people are speaking the same language and we are picking up on all kinds of stimulus, not just one person working on themselves, which allows us to change and grow faster.
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