Your Unique Path through Recovery

You are a unique person. Literally. No other person in the history of the world has ever had to deal with the same set of conditions that you have. There has been no one who has had the same combination of experiences as you. No one who has lived the life that you have been forced to live. So, in that sense...you are completely unique. To prove this, let's first divide all of the people who have been sexually violated as a child in one group, and those who have not been in another. Now be sure to add a third group for those who may have been, but can't prove it. And yet another for those who aren't sure. We'll further divide each of these groups into those who were raised in a two -parent, nourishing household and those raised in a two-parent neglectful household. Then divide that group into one parent and/or both parents being nurturing. And divide the neglected group into physical or emotional. And don't forget to add an additional division for those who experienced both. Now do the same for one-parent families...those with brothers...those with sisters...those with brothers who molested them ...those with brothers who made sexually suggestive comments to them...those with...you should be getting the picture. Every person on this Earth has experienced a unique combination of events that have led him or her to where they are today.

Taking this a step further, let's consider your own feelings and perceptions as they relate to your compulsive behavior. In the workshop, you were asked to describe the feelings you experienced in the moments leading up to , during and after a compulsive act. Get back in touch with those feelings now and concentrate on their intensity. If such thoughts begin to trigger an urge to act, it is important that you take yourself right up to the point of acting out...but no further. What you are trying to capture is an awareness of the intense anxiety you experience when you come to the point of NEEDING to finish the compulsive act, because it will be through this awareness that most urge control measures flow.

To fully understand this next point, you must have an understanding of the extreme emotions that only your unique combination of thoughts, experiences and behaviors can generate. You must come to the realization that nobody else is capable of experiencing these compulsive emotions as intensely as you. No one else can generate the overwhelming urges that your thoughts produce inside your head. It is why you continue to struggle the way that you do, while others are able to put an end their compulsions. They were lucky. Their feelings weren't as intense as yours, with the possible exception being those who have also tried to stop, but have been unable to. These guys understand: the feelings that you are experiencing are just too extreme to control consistently.

One reason that so many adopt these thought patterns — which are absolutely , completely, and unequivocally false — is that no one else can actually experience just how intense these feelings are — just as you are unable to experience the intensity of another's compulsive urge. And so, in a sense , you feel completely alone in your ability to manage the intensity of these urges. Yes, you can describe them to others. Yes, others can play a role in helping you to manage them. Yes, you can take medication that can dull the intensity...but always are you at the mercy of your own emotional management skills.

The next step in your recovery path is to come to the realization that, when it comes to recovery , you are not unique. In fact, quite the opposite. You have actually sacrificed much of your uniqueness as your obsessions/compulsions/addictions have grown. The more entrenched the patterns of addiction become, the more common is your & quot;uniqueness". Eventually, when your values deteriorate to the point of offering little to no actual value; when your boundaries have disintegrated completely, offering you and those around you no protection whatsoever...you become nothing more than a syndrome. Of course, no two people experience their lives in exactly the same way, but in the context of addiction , the range of experiences are relatively small. The same holds true for the range of emotions experienced in a compulsive urge .

"How can you be certain of this? Isn't it possible that I really do experience such intense urges that they are different than anyone else. That they truly are impossible to manage?"

No. It is not possible. For it to be possible would require that your compulsive actions be an involuntary physiological response...and that is not what drives compulsive behavior. Not addiction.

Compulsive behavior/addiction is a lonely, isolated experience. Even when surrounded by hundreds of friends and family ...even when an individual is successful or famous...even when the personal image being presented to society is one of confidence and security — an individual who must rely on compulsive behavior to regulate their emotions is a very lonely, isolated person at their core. And the longer they have had to deal with these compulsive patterns, the more lonely and isolated they have become. Eventually, the person can end up in complete isolation (at least emotionally), being left with only one means for generating comfort — acting out. This is a common pattern played over and over and over again throughout our society. And what is most phenomenal about it, is that everyone involved in such a common pattern believes that, deep down, they are somehow "unique" in the way that they experience their urges. That they actually cannot recover because the intensity of their experiences are just too strong. That they are defective...broken somehow.

So, if you find yourself struggling to believe that the intensity of your urges are somehow stronger than others who have moved beyond addiction, that begs the questions: why have so many others described their compulsive intensity with such striking similarity as your own? Why do their compulsive behaviors produce the same consequences as your own? Why do they believe that they cannot really recover — because their urges to drink, or masturbate, or eat, or gamble or whatever the behavior is that triggers the compulsions...are just too intense? Why are all of these "unique& quot; lives so incredibly similar to your own? The answer is: because addiction recovery is not found in the & quot;how" or"why" you got to this point in your life; it is found in the development of the skills that will take you to the next point. Millions of people...and please take a moment to comprehend that number...MILLIONS...of unique individuals reach the point in their lives when they believe that they, as an individual, are incapable of managing their lives. When they believe that the feelings that they experience surrounding certain situations/triggers are just too intense for them to handle. And everyone of them is wrong.

What is the truth?

The truth is that there is no 'unique path' to your addiction recovery process. The process that you need to experience in overcoming addiction is the same that every person with an addiction — and a desire to end that addiction — needs to experience. The wrapper may look different, but they will all include the same core changes being made to you as a unique individual. Each will provide you with the ability to better manage your life, your emotions, your urges. Each will allow you to seek changes to the core of your identity and will provide you with some means for expanding/strengthening the foundation of values that you currently possess. Otherwise, they will not be an effective recovery program.

Additionally, every healthy recovery process should include an effective, natural method for managing your emotions. Thankfully, emotions aren't based on some infinite range of intensity. The ranges are common...and the reactions that result from where an individual is in that range are predictable. The same feelings that you experience when you feel the " uncontrollable urge" to act out are the same feelings that millions of others experience when they feel the urge to act. Because of this, you will develop skills to deal with intense urges that will work for you because — and this should be becoming clear by now — the urges that you experience are not unique. And neither are the skills for managing them effectively.

As the workshop progresses, you will be learning to isolate the emotions that are experienced in a compulsive urge . There are two main reasons for this, and the sooner you begin to understand these reasons, the easier the urge control process should be for you. The first occurs when you begin developing your own compulsive chains. Here, you will be asked to look for the patterns of each compulsive urge that you experience, so that you can begin the process of applying a mechanical filter to previously intangible emotions (this will be described in great detail when the time comes). The second reason for learning to isolate the emotions in a compulsive urge will occur as you begin assigning arbitrary values to the elements of these chains that you develop. This, too, will be an unnatural, mechanical application of your recovery efforts to lay the foundation for a more natural, flowing approach. Both skills involve the initial development of a crude emotional awareness in an effort to facilitate a more natural awareness when it counts: in real life application to a compulsive crisis.

This is important to understand, because it underscores the fact that recovery is not some mystical voodoo that some people get and others don't. Recovery applies to all. And it is no more complicated than understanding the very basics of human behavior — and then applying that knowledge to your own life.

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