When we talk about successful recovery, many people often think that it is merely abstinence from mind-altering substances. The reality is though, that successful recovery goes far beyond just not drinking or using drugs. Successful recovery involves a mind-body-spirit approach that can't even begin until the drugs and alcohol are long gone.
For those of us that find ourselves addicted to a substance, we've become addicted because we didn't like how we felt when we were sober. That drink or drug changed everything for us - putting us in a place where we finally felt comfortable in our own skin. Without a doubt, those negative feelings and emotions will return once we get clean and sober. To keep from relapsing, we will need to face those negative feelings and emotions head on to truly be successful in our recovery efforts.
The healing of our minds begins with the emotional traumas that we've faced that bring on our negative feelings and emotions. Perhaps it was emotional trauma such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment. It could even be a traumatic event that occured that caused some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is never a good idea to handle emotional trauma on your own. It is always best to seek professional help to work out the issues that have caused the trauma in the first place. Speaking freely with a licenced counselor will help you understand the process of the events that occured and release the responsibility you feel for these events.
Its important to realize though, that you cannot do these things on your own. You need direction, accountability, and even supervision to make sure that what you are doing is correct, safe, and productive in your recovery. It may start with your sponsor, but your sponsor may recommend counseling as well. If you went through a treatment center, you most likely saw a doctor, psychiatrist, therapist, or all three. It is important to your mental health to remain seeing these professionals as long as they deem necessary. Once you leave treatment, your recovery journey has only just begun. It will take months, years, or even a lifetime of personal growth to continue your success in recovery.
Our physical and mental health are so closely tied to each other that it is impossible to address one and not the other. When you stop drinking or using drugs, your body will immediately begin to heal itself from the damage. However, to continue on the healing path, you must focus on healthy diet, exercise, and regulating sleep patterns. When you aren't physically feeling your best, your emotions run higher and its difficult to see things from a healthy perspective. When you are tired from lack of sleep, you are more apt to make poor decisions.
In recovery, we are taught to take care of our own needs first, and then help others. While it sounds selfish, the analogy of the airplane oxygen mask is used to explain. If you are on an airplane and the oxygen masks are released from the ceiling, place the mask on yourself first before helping others with their masks. The reasoning is because if our own needs for oxygen aren't met, then we will quickly pass out and be useless in the quest to help others. It is the same with recovery. While the effects may not be as immediate, you will not be nearly as effective in helping others if you do not first ensure that your own physical needs have been met.
Our spirits are perhaps the most overlooked when it comes to personal recovery. However, it is arguably the most important. When we speak about our spirits, we are referring to everything from our interpersonal relationships with others to our concept of a higher power and the strength he, she, or it brings us.
No matter what your beliefs are, we are social and relational beings; we need meaningful interaction with others to survive and thrive. Countless scientific studies have shown this time and time again without fail...we need other people in our lives to be happy, healthy, and successful. The problem is, most of us have deeply hurt our loved ones in our addictions. In recovery, we need to make amends to those people that we have hurt.
This is also a huge reason why we relapse, as well as the main purpose of the fourth, eighth, and ninth steps of 12-step programs. It is very important to make direct amends where possible, and to make living amends everywhere else. You can read more about the process for making amends in the sixth chapter of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Your sponsor is also a good source of information regarding the 12 steps, and if you don't have one yet it is highly recommended that you begin looking for one right away.
As for our concept of a higher power, many people will choose God as their higher power. However, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous clearly states that this is not a requirement in the program. Chapter four of the big book speaks directly to this fact. If you don't believe in God as your higher power, you can choose the higher power of your own belief. Whatever the case may be, we are clear through the 12 steps that we are not in control of what happens outside of our own behavior. Something else is in control. Whatever you believe is in control of the universe is your higher power. To remain spiritually healthy, you need to find your connection to that higher power and understand your relationship to it.
So you can see, it is so much more important to look beyond the addiction itself and see the underlying causes of our emotional and spiritual issues. As addicts and alcoholics, we self-medicate to remove the emotional pain that we face. If we remove that "medication", we do not solve the root cause. In fact, its quite the opposite - we free those issues up for the world to see. We can't ignore them.
The 12 steps are designed to start the process, but they also only scratch the surface. If you're new in recovery then you may understand...treatment, sober living, sponsors, the 12 steps: all of it is designed to start you on your journey but its up to you to keep on that journey for the rest of your life. As you do, the promises of Alcoholics Anonymous will be granted you. You'll be happier, healthier, and more successful than you've ever known in your life. And at that point, you'll truly know that you are successfully in recovery.
Chateau Recovery does not provide addiction treatment; we offer upscale sober living at a reasonable rate in the heart of West Hollywood. If you have completed a treatment program and are looking for sober living, give us a call today to schedule a tour.