Recovery Workshop: Lesson Sixty-Five
Life After Addiction
Yes, Virginia, there is a...life after addiction. And establishing a realistic awareness of just what that life consists of is one of the fundamental tasks in recovery. In general, 'life after recovery' includes the following:
- ...any and every other possible life experience
In other words, 'life after addiction' is just life. It's not some magical place — akin to heaven on earth. It is real. Real pain, real love, real stress, real anxiety, real joy, real loss, real mistakes, real accomplishment. In fact, for most people transitioning away from addiction, it will initially be harder than it will be at any time in your future. The holes that you have dug for yourself must be repaired. The baggage from the addiction must be overcome — personally and socially. The skills that come so easily for others must be rebuilt. This is the reality of recovery. Heck, it is recovery — rebuilding your life so that it rests on a strong, balanced and healthy foundation. Recovery won't let you avoid the inevitable disappointments of life, but it will allow you to manage them in such a way as to keep your perspective and control.
Without this awareness, many fall into the trap of recovery never living up to their expectations. This then leads to relapse. Such an understanding is the basis for living a healthy life. Using the knowledge that, no matter what happens — the trivial, the painful and the awesome — I will embrace it and act in a manner that best represents the person that I am inside. And if I make a mistake...I learn and move on. If I succeed, I learn and move on. But what I don't do is to look for ways to escape the experiences of that life through addiction.
For those who haven't done so already, put aside the activity of 'being in recovery'...and commit yourself to changing. Commit yourself to eliminating the patterns of addiction, so that you will be free to embrace life — all of it. Even the hard times. And do so proudly. Confidently.
Lesson 65 Exercise:
a) Envision your "life after addiction/life after recovery".
b) Compare it to the vision that you began back in Lesson Two of the workshop.
c) They should be nearly identical. Are they?
One of the fundamental skills in a health-based recovery is the ability to isolate the rituals of one's addiction. There are several angles to consider in this isolation. One is to isolate the ritual to the point where it has a starting point, the elements engaged in that specific ritual, and an ending. Another is to isolate the emotions associated with this ritual from the behaviors. Finally, it is important to develop an awareness that isolates the ritual itself from one's core identity — to see it as an artificial means for generating emotional stimulation. We are going to focus now on the first angle: isolating the ritual from the addiction.
1) In Lesson 25, participants are asked to 'Map Out' a compulsive ritual for the first time. Our goal is to be very flexible of what they share here, accepting as adequate a ritual that at the very least identifies a starting point for a ritual, several elements that are involved with that ritual, and an ending. However, there is almost universal feedback that can be offered to this first attempt. Consider the following feedback and then examine someone else's attempt at mapping out their first ritual. Offer such feedback as appropriate.
Universal feedback to potentially offer:
- That their initial attempt was a good start, but that evolution will be necessary. Specifically, they have grasped some of the overt elements of the ritual, but will need to gain much greater depth in the subtle elements. Note that this depth will be developed throughout the workshop.
- If their ritual begins with something related to emotional imbalance (e.g. sadness, rejection, frustration, boredom, etc.), offer feedback related to the difference between experiencing emotional discomfort and responding to that discomfort with the ingrained response of sexualized rituals. There is no need to teach them anything related to this, just expose them to such a reality. Without direct coaching, it likely won't be until they get to the lessons on emotions that pieces of this particular puzzle will start to fall into place.
Note: if YOU do not have a clear understanding of this critical insight, seek it out now. You cannot succeed at this stage of the workshop without realizing that your emotions do not cause your compulsive behavior. That more accurately, you lack of emotional maturity opens the door for more rudimentary means for managing those emotions.