Recovery Nation

Personal Development Forum
It is currently Sat Dec 07, 2019 10:14 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 4 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:42 am 
Offline
Partner's Coach (Admin)

Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2007 3:07 pm
Posts: 5200
I want to expand on the distinction of health based recovery opposed to the disease model which purports "once an addict, always an addict". From the perspective of health based recovery, recovery is much like any other learning process (in my opinion, based on what I have learned, both academically, and through experience and observation). That said, this oversimplification should not be taken lightly. As you have realized, it isn't as easy as you think it should be. But, it isn't as daunting as it seems, either. Putting it into perspective, so one knows what to expect, might help.

Usually, when we learn something new we start off with a (more or less) blank slate in terms of what we “know” or have already learned about whatever it is we are learning. That is, typical learning is usually thought of as more of a bottom up process, where we know little to nothing about a subject, and then we accumulate information and experience until we have mastered that thing. (Again, this is hugely oversimplified and not entirely true since we do have innate abilities as well. None the less, this serves to illustrate the point).

In recovery, the learner is now endeavouring to learn something new about something that they have already become masterful at—life management. Granted, what they previously learned is maladaptive in that it doesn’t work given the vision they have of their life (assuming their vision truly does not include the behaviours that constitutes their “addiction”). Thus, they must now learn new life management skills where they already have a thoroughly ingrained pattern of (faulty) life management skills in place. This is probably the most problematic aspect of recovery, and is captured in the metaphor “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. I don’t know about dogs, but it has been shown of the human brain that you can, in fact, teach “and old dog new tricks”. It just takes more work, and is subject to “savings” in memory.

Savings in memory is what you get when you learn something, like riding a bike as a child, and then don't practice it for a long time. When you get back on the bike as an adult, you don't have to re-learn it. This is a problem in recovery and why the new skills must be continually practiced. (Or, if the person becomes complacent, when they are faced with an unexpected obstacle, they have to intentionally choose to engage new skills, instead of automatically getting back on the bike). Choosing the lesser worn path does take more cognitive control, which is why having (and holding) a vision for your life is so important. What we attend to is also what we tend to learn. (The same principle applies in the healing process).

Other things that can interfere with learning in recovery can be described as peer pressure (i.e. the normalization of objectification and hyper-sexuality as it appears in society, which is related to attention) and free will. Our propensity for objectification and sexualization primes us for sexual addiction. What’s more, since sexuality and objectification are so imbued in society, sexual addiction is easily masked and/or normalized. This is evident in statements like “boys will be boys”, and in beliefs such as "all men look at porn". Even the so called women’s movement and the advent of porn for women all speak to this phenomenon. Further, some scientists provide justification for hyper-sexuality and objectification by claiming these as the necessarily innate basis for the “survival of the species”. Apparently, these scientists ignore other bits of evolutionary evidence that are less individualized and place a lot less significance on sex as THE only factor that supports survival, which find species who ostracize cheaters (which works for the community as a whole) and support the case that males who remain with their female partners and their offspring increase the chances of survival of those offspring.

Also, regardless of the social messages a person receives, there remains the factor of free will/choice. There is always a choice to be made, and it is always their choice, regardless of "peer pressure". No amount of social pressure; hounding, shaming, shunning, begging, or otherwise trying to appeal to their values-based senses, will work. Likewise, no amount of normalization by society is a valid excuse. The person who is in recovery must want recovery for its own sake. Research in memory (memory and learning go hand in hand; nothing remembered, nothing learned) lends support here. When we want to learn something it helps greatly if we associate the learning to something that is personally meaningful. It follows that if a person in recovery wants to override their old learning with new learning, the new learning must also be made meaningful. We already know that the old learning is meaningful. For those who do not separate their addiction from themselves, it means everything. I think Coach Jon analogized the perception of recovery for a person early in the process as a kind of amputation. My husband would concur with this statement. I recently learned that it truly does not resonate with him when I tell him “he is not his addiction”. Note: This does not mean anything about our value. We too must separate ourselves from their addiction.

Finally, just like any other kind of learning, with practice we become experts. So, in recovery, it essentially comes down to "which wolf do you feed?". If you keep practising the old ways of coping, then what you are doing is reinforcing that learning. Conversely, if you want to learn something new, you must practice (repetition is another robust learning strategy). In this way, you are reinforcing the new learning. This doesn't mean that you won't ever make a mistake. (Trust me, I know this from my own experience. With all the learning I have done, at times of peak stress, it requires effortful intention to not resort to old ways of being). Again, what it comes down to is choice. Biology and drives aside, we all have choice and we all have the capacity to override automaticity of over learned behaviour. IT IS WORK and it is WORTHWHILE.

Be well.

_________________
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. (Viktor E. Frankl)


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2014 10:22 pm 
Offline
Partner's Mentor

Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:38 pm
Posts: 515
Hi Coach Mel,

Thank you for this detailed write up. I hope you will consider either making it sticky or integrating it into the workshop at some point in the process.

Most of us arrive here at RN in crisis mode. Speaking for myself, I found I wasn't able to get a full, clear picture of what recovery involves for my partner until I had put in a lot of grunt work into my own healing. When I saw how challenging it was for me to change my OWN patterns at times, I got a bitter swallow of what may be involved for my husband to change his.

What you write also speaks to the relevance and need for internal motivation for the person with addiction. The desire for change must come from within, for it's the only thing that can sustain the momentum necessary to go through the process you describe here.

I have been struck by "we don't know what we don't know" and find that rings quite true for anyone recovering from addiction. The extent to which they've normalized their behavioral choices means it's exceedingly difficult to see there are other/different ways of life and emotion management. In knowing that, I am unfortunately sadly inclined to see my husband not choosing recovery for himself. While I cannot read his mind, I can map him enough after 10 years to know that everything you describe in this entry appears far too challenging and complicated for him to work through.

Thank you for posting this. I am thinking of you in your time of marriage transition.

meepmeep


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 5:29 am 
Offline
Partner's Mentor

Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:20 pm
Posts: 1422
my dear mel,
thanks so much for the thoughtful post.

Quote:
I want to expand on the distinction of health based recovery opposed to the disease model which does purport "once an addict, always an addict".


i also believe there is a huge difference between recovering and recovered. no one thinks twice when i say i am a recovered breast cancer patient. no one questions being recovered from a physical disease. i am also a recovered alcoholic, long past the recovering stage. i know that there will always be those who believe once an addict, always an addict. i wish i could take out a full page ad in the ny times to encourage addicts to think in terms of learning new healthy habits. you did such a nice job of explaining that.

Quote:
there remains the factor of free will/choice. There is always a choice to be made, and it is always their choice,


Quote:
it requires effortful intention to not resort to old ways of being). Again, what it comes down to is choice. Biology and drives aside, we all have choice and we all have the capacity to override automaticity of over learned behaviour. IT IS WORK and it is WORTHWHILE.


i have yet to meet one recovered alcoholic or addict who would disagree with this statement. when i was drinking, i made a tremendous number of really bad choices, but they were my choices. there was no mysterious power stronger than the essential me making those choices. when i was recovering, i was learning and practicing new skills and habits until i had them saved in memory. once i had mastered these new life skills i became a recovered alcoholic. i don't have to think about these healthy habits. they are automatic.

it is a journey and
Quote:
IT IS WORK and it is WORTHWHILE.


thanks again mel for such a great post.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 7:12 am 
Offline
Partner's Coach (Admin)

Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2007 3:07 pm
Posts: 5200
I am glad to hear that people are finding value in this post. I really like how you distinguished between recovering and recovered and thank you for sharing your success, deservesmore!

I hear what you are saying, meepmeep, about arriving here in crisis and not explicitly learning about what recovery could look like until the 8th and 9th lessons in. And, I this is applicable also to the healing process, too, which is arguably more important for the healing partner than learning about the process in context of recovery. I'll put your idea of making this a sticky, or part of the introductory lessons, forward to CoachCheryl as she is the one administers/handles all the site stuff.

Be well.

_________________
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. (Viktor E. Frankl)


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 4 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group