Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Defining recovery

My friend LindyFox recently sent me her book on co-occurring disorders--those who have substance abuse issues and mental illness. Lindy is an expert in this field and I met her on the Hazelden national tour last year when we were both speakers. Her book is a training manual for therapists and I was just reading through the exercises. While I don't have a mental illness beyond addiction and the obsession and compulsion that go with it, many of the ideas struck me as highly useful. Here's one:

Early in the group process, participants are asked to define "recovery" for themselves and to set goals. I don't remember doing this in my treatment center in 1989. Maybe it was part of the first few days while I was in the alcohol poisoning fog, but I don't think so. And so I began thinking about how I would define recovery from my chronic concerns.

I know that when I gave up sugar 18 months ago, I wanted three things: to lose weight (and I did but not as much as I had hoped), to be free of guilt and shame around food (and I have been), and to be free of the fear that I was ruining my health (and I've stayed reasonably free of that as well). So while this wasn't a definition or a goal (the aspects of Lindy's program that are intriguing me), I did have desires.

Recovery from my chronic concerns would mean peace with myself. It would mean freedom from resentment of myself, as my friend Beth pointed out: all that resentment that we stuff down because we aren't perfect, we can't control our appetites, we struggle to "fix" our habits, whatever they may be. It's a constant battle and it seems to do me no good. So forgiveness of all those things would come into play, not just acceptance.

Recovery might also mean a lot of freed-up energy, the energy I spend worrying about things that don't change with worry, the negativity, the boring repetitiveness of all that concern. Recovery might mean something fresh and new could come into my life. It might mean exploring other more interesting and complex issues, both personal and global. This is beginning to intrigue me.

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