Recovery Workshop: Lesson Sixty-Seven
Poly-Addictions & Switching
No recovery process would be sufficient if it focused solely on your existing destructive behavior. Such a symptomatic approach would lead people to require a separate recovery process for a wide range of behaviors, and would make an almost joke of their life. See the following support group schedule:
Monday: AA, Emotions Anonymous
Tuesday: Codependents Anonymous, Alanon
Wednesday: SLAA; Overeaters Anonymous
Thursday: SAA, NA (meeting #1), NA (meeting #2)
Friday: Support Group Anonymous (for those addicted to support groups)
And while this schedule is intended as a humorous example of such an extreme, similar schedules with multiple addiction-related support groups are very much the reality for some individuals. This often occurs in poly-addiction — where an individual is addicted to more than one behavior genre. Guard against turning your life into a recovery shrine by applying the same principles that you have already learned in your recovery to all compulsive/addictive patterns that you find yourself engaged in. With addiction, the core issues are and will always remain the same. As will the answers.
Prepare for Addiction Transference
As you continue to transition to a healthy life, there will come a time when complacency will set in and you will find yourself on emotional cruise control. There will be no major crises in your life, no intense issues to contend with, no careers or relationships in jeopardy. The urgency with which you have been pursuing your personal development will wane and you will find yourself in the position of simply living your life. In terms of addiction, you will become complacent...and this is actually a good thing. Sort of. In transitioning to a healthy life, you want to stop thinking about addiction. You want to stop thinking about the areas where you were once deficient and instead focus on 'the good stuff'. But a natural part of this transformation is the experience that you will not be completely prepared to handle 'living a healthy life'. There is no reason to expect that you can. You are developing healthy skills, true...but they are not yet fully developed. Why? Because an essential part of that development requires experience. And experience can only be developed through, well...experience. So, as you continue moving further and further away from addiction, you will be forced to address more real life issues — stressful issues — that you may or may not be prepared to handle. And because this is the first time that you are gaining experience in handling such stress in a healthy way, you should anticipate some problems along the way. This is where your relapse prevention plan comes in.
Most of the time, you will not recognize that you are struggling until after the pattern has developed into something fairly significant. One of the reasons that you are encouraged to complete a weekly assessment of your progress over the first few months after you complete the workshop is for this exact reason: to identify potential problems early, before they have progress into an ingrained pattern. Most often, as stress begins to pile up without any healthy actions being taken to manage it, your past stress-management techniques (e.g. your compulsive behaviors) will begin creeping back into your life to help you. Behaviors to look for in this pattern should already be addressed in your relapse prevention plan.
But just as important to identifying past destructive behaviors, is to anticipate destructive patterns that may evolve involving behaviors other than what you are expecting. For instance, a compulsive masturbator who, three months into their recovery process, unwittingly turns to the 'fun' of gambling. Or a relationship addict who swears off of relationships for six months, only to find themselves engaged in a pattern of viewing porn on the Internet...or of binging with food. This is addiction transference. Where the underlying patterns of the addiction begin to transfer to other behavior types. Should you observe such transference taking place in your own life, don't get discouraged in thinking that you will forever be on an endless search and destroy mission to root out addiction. Be on the look-out for such transference in the first year of recovery, but once your healthy patterns have become ingrained...you will see that those healthy patterns will apply to the underlying patterns of addiction themselves...as opposed to the individual behaviors that you have come to identify your addiction with.
Lesson 67 Exercise:
a) List the most likely behavior that you will need to monitor for potential 'switching' and/or compulsivity now that the sexual rituals have subsided.
b) Are these listed anywhere on your weekly monitoring so that you can objectively assess them?