Recovery is more than abstinence from mind- and mood-altering drugs and alcohol or the addictive behavior being addressed. It is about looking at the world with a new attitude and a new way of seeing the events of our lives in order to claim responsibility and subsequent recovery from behaviors, actions, and attitudes that have destroyed our lives. While addictive practices, such as drinking, drugging, and gambling can be destructive forces, the driving powers of these addictions can be as simple as our thoughts about them. Addicts tend to see the world as an adversarial environment that they must conquer daily just to survive. Because there are many forms of trauma that may help shape these ideas, it is very important to overcome them.
Survival is not necessary when addicts can begin to believe and hope that life is good. Their viewfinder of their life must be pointed in a different direction to help them see more optimistically, which is really more realistically than they believe. Many see that life is hard and give up any notion of ever overcoming the incredible odds stacked against them. They also see that circumstances and relationships with others have become damaged to such a degree that there is no way to right the vast wrongs that have been committed and to turn the tide of negative events in another direction. When faced with the tremendous amount of wreckage they see in their lives, they feel overwhelmed and inadequate to face the task or even begin it.
This is when the sponsor or counselor can come to the rescue with the adage begun in Alcoholics Anonymous of “one day at a time.” This phrase instructs the addict in recovery to do what is possible in a 24-hour period to begin the process of cleaning up the wreckage in their lives. It is a daunting task, but can be done, one bit at a time, one (12) Step at a time. As they begin the process of cleaning up their past and working through the steps, addicts will find that they begin to see the world around them differently. What once felt like a hostile environment, set out to ruin their dreams, begins to feel like a world full of hope and possibility. They begin to take responsibility for their actions and behaviors, both while under the influence of their addiction, and while in the recovery process. They will begin to see that their cognitions and beliefs about their lives were at fault. Life is not a dangerous place to go, but joy and sanity get restored and they can see how their choices can be different.
The first choice that changes is the way they view the universe around them. Instead of being victimized by the life they had been living, they can overcome and enjoy their life by having a say in what happens next. While life will sometimes, (or even often) throw a curveball that was unexpected, new tools and insight are given to each addict to help them see the beauty and plan that is possible for them to learn and grow through the circumstances and build a wonderful life from the ashes of their previous wreckage.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.