Recovery Workshop: Lesson Thirteen

Healthy Recovery Patterns

In the previous lesson, you explored common unhealthy patterns in recovery. Today you will be looking at healthy patterns that you should consider adopting.

Those Who Tend to Make the Transition to a Healthy Lifestyle

Because this is the primary goal of the Recovery Workshop — to guide those individuals seeking a healthy transition in their lives — the roles and patterns associated with such a transition will be reviewed extensively.

Those who make the transition from recovery to health tend to exhibit the following traits:

Early Recovery: "Understanding/Recognizing the Behavior"

  • In early recovery, individuals often experience significant doubts relating to their ability to change.
  • In early recovery, extremely negative emotions are the norm: especially as they relate to depression, anxiety, hopelessness and suicide.
  • In early recovery, they often "test the waters" of recovery by attempting recovery for a few days, then acting out. Attempting recovery for a few weeks, then acting out. Attempting recovery for a few months, then acting out. A weaning behavior similar to a toddler giving up a security blanket.
  • In early recovery, they tend to explore many different trigger situations to see how well they can handle themselves. To see "how far they have come". This is a behavior that is often witnessed in adolescent wound care — where the adolescent almost compulsively tears open their bandages to "check the wounds". Of course, just like with addiction, such behavior is often problematic — as it opens the individual up to additional infection. But it is a behavior that provides comfort to the adolescent — no matter what stage of healing the wound may be in.
  • In early recovery, they tend to experience relief in having their behaviors understood, and immediately seek understanding in all areas of their life. Unfortunately, this tends to overwhelm them, distract them, etc., but it is fairly common...and a good sign that their desire to change is sincere.
  • In early recovery, these individuals may be all across the board in terms of treatment, and may display many similar traits as to those in the "Those Who Will Occasionally Struggle With Relapse" category above.
  • In early recovery, they perceive "powerlessness" as "helplessness" and "desperation".
  • In early recovery, significant others tend to experience these individuals as very needy, pathetic, "lost souls".

Middle Recovery : "Actual Recovery"

  • They have accepted that they have struggled with certain immoral behaviors that contradicted their values, but realize that what matters is what they are doing, not what they did. They realize that no successful recovery ever took place by changing the past, only by changing the present.
  • Their motivation to recover comes from the desire to live a life that they can be proud of, rather than a desire to create the illusion of a life that they can be proud of.
  • They make decisions based on what they believe is the right thing to do, rather than on what they think they can get away with. They know that whether these decisions end up being the right ones or not is irrelevant. That all that matters is that they were made with the right intentions in mind.
  • They are not focused on controlling/ending their past behavioral patterns, but on developing new patterns that will take the place of those related to the addiction.
  • They perceive "powerlessness" as a temporary term that more accurately describes their lack of skills in managing their urges.
  • Relapse triggers are experienced not as a threat, but an opportunity.
  • They recognize failure as a learning experience — but only when that failure occurs with on-the-spot sincerity, as opposed to pre-planned deception.
  • They recognize that the feelings that they are experiencing are the same feelings that others deal with every day in many different situations. That they are not "defective", but "deficient".
  • They identify their future with a healthy person that once used addiction to manage their life; not as an addict that is managing their life with healthy behavior.
  • They see their lives as a continuous process of growth and development, rather than an episodic book of starts and stops. (e.g. "When I was addicted" "After I recovered").
  • They will take a long, hard look at anything associated with their destructive past, and will voluntarily make the decision to remove these objects from their life. This refers to pornography, internet accounts, etc. It does not necessarily refer to affairs where real feelings were experienced/exchanged.
  • They tend to have an emotional relapse in terms of the consequences that they have effected on others — especially those closest to them. This frequently triggers true remorse, temporary depression, temporary helplessness — but is soon resolved with a commitment to making it up to people in other, more healthy ways.
  • Significant others tend to experience these individuals with cautious optimism. They can see the changes taking place, but remain unable to commit to their partners fully — as they continue to doubt their own judgment (a consequence of the shocking discovery of the addiction's reality).

Late Recovery : "From Recovery to Health"

  • They have complete confidence in their ability to manage their life and are moving forward with their dreams in a rational, planned manner.
  • They no longer avoid "trigger situations" as they have developed the skills necessary to make confident, healthy choices in just about any situation they may face.
  • They tend to see their past as something rather unbelievable. They are sometimes able to achieve distant emotional connections with those behaviors, but can no longer visualize a situation where the pleasure they once achieved would be worth the risk of all they would lose inside themselves. Except at this stage, those thoughts are actually felt, rather than intellectualized. They will not be able to comprehend a situation where such a risk would ever be taken.
  • They have developed the ability to produce the same emotional stimulation from value-based actions as they once derived solely from impulse-based actions.
  • They will have eliminated all previous connections to their recovery, except that which will be included in their ongoing plan for a continuing evaluation and assessment of their life. They will no longer associate themselves with addiction, but with health.
  • Significant others tend to experience people who have made this transition with greater respect and admiration then they ever had previously for the person. Additionally, trust and closeness in the relationship will take on a very real quality. One that has never actually been present previously — only assumed. The partner's believing in the "recovery" will no longer be a matter of crossing their fingers and hoping, but of having no doubt.

If you find that many of your thoughts and behaviors are consistent with the thoughts and behaviors of others who have made a successful recovery, then you should proceed with relative confidence that your foundation is solid. If, on the other hand, you see more in common with the unhealthy patterns that are often observed in recovery, don't panic. Just keep these patterns in the back of your mind. If you find yourself succeeding in spite of them, more power to you. If you find yourself struggling, may be an area that you will want to revisit later.

Lesson 13 Exercises:

I. Identify those patterns that you currently recognize in yourself in relation to a healthy recovery. Post these observations into your Recovery Thread and/or Recovery Manager.

II. Consider the values that surround both your healthy and unhealthy patterns. Are they consistent with your current prioritized values? If yes, wonderful. If not, how might this awareness alter how you are currently perceiving/managing your recovery? Share your thoughts in the community forum.

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